Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy Steering Group - November 2021

Minutes of the meeting of the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy Steering group on 10 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Nick Ambrose, SG, Branch Head, Animal Health & Welfare (AHW), Chairperson
  • Luis Molero, Scottish Government (AHW), Lead Bee Inspector
  • Alison Knox, SG AHW – Bee Health Team, Policy Officer
  • Linsey Watt, SG AHW – Bee Health Team, Policy Officer
  • Fiona Highet, Scottish Government (SASA), Senior Entomologist 
  • Mairi Carnegie, Scottish Government (SASA), Lab Manager
  • Claire Gill, SG-RPID, Deputy LBI
  • Rose Hugget, SG-RPID, Admin. Support Team 
  • Gregor Caldwell, SG-RPID, Dep. Head/Area Offices
  • Belinda Phillipson, Defra, Policy Lead
  • Julian Parker, National Bee Unit (NBU), APHA, Head of NBU
  • Cristina Ruiz, NBU, Lead Bee Inspector
  • Phil McAnespie, Scottish Beekeepers Association, President
  • Matthew Richardson, Scottish Beekeepers Association, Bee Health Convener
  • Margaret Thomas, NBD, Member
  • Jim Jeffrey, Nature Scot (SNH)


  • Graeme Sharpe, SRUC, Apiculture Specialist
  • Angus MacAskill, SG-RPID, Bee Inspector (Observer)
  • Margaret Ginman, Bee Farmers Association, General Secretary
  • Murray McGregor, Bee Farmers Association, Scottish Representative

Items and actions

 Welcome, introductions and apologies

  • Nick welcomed everyone to the meeting and apologies were noted as per the table above 
  • Nick suggested this was a good time to re-evaluate the purpose of the steering group following finalisation of the first 10-year strategy
  • this should include being critical friends to each other and using this platform to challenge ourselves and each other on what we are doing and to make informed decisions, focussing more on direction rather than reflection
  • the Bee Health team will work on determining the purpose and terms of reference for this steering group and will report back to members to agree the way forward.


  • for the Bee Health team to take forward

 Previous minutes and action points from meeting held on 16 November 2020

  • previous minutes were agreed with no amendments and will be published on the Scottish Government website
  • it was noted the two action points from the previous meeting were completed
  • Nick apologised for the time taken to issue the previous minute and explained that procedures are now in place to ensure that meeting notes are issued timeously in future

Scottish Government Bee Health team: 2021 review and next steps

  • Luis shared his report on screen with the group and highlighted the key achievements completed and the next steps for each of the four delivery outcomes of the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy

Questions and discussion:

  • EFB Control Strategy: it was highlighted that we have been doing the same thing for a long period of time and need to work together, gather thoughts, look at resources and come up with a smarter way of doing things
  • Phil emphasised it was a good thing to have a strong inspectorate in Scotland but questioned the amount of money that is currently spent on inspectors working on EFB controls and commercial beekeepers, this could be detrimental to the hobbyist sector if they cannot access and get the inspectorate services
  • Phil queried the question in the upcoming survey about the views on compulsory registration and if someone had already made the decision on whether it comes in
  • Nick confirmed that the Scottish Government has a legal obligation to consult, gather views covering all sides and then present the information to Scottish Ministers who would then be responsible for making the informed final decision
  • Luis confirmed that resources and reviewing the EFB control plan will be an action and objective of the new strategy, consideration will be made on whether to start a working group specifically on EFB

Scottish Government SGRPID: bee inspectorate delivery

  • Gregor confirmed the partnership between Scottish Government policy and the delivery side from SGRPID is working well
  • the main challenge being succession planning and building a team of knowledgeable and experienced people to take on the role of a bee inspector
  • Gregor highlighted the training and development work as a key achievement and which will be used as a model for the future as environmental and behavioural changes are faced

Questions and discussion:

  • Mathew highlighted that in response to the climate crisis, the SBA have a three to five year plan to look at revising beekeeper ethics, legal requirements, foulbrood reporting, medicine use, importation and interaction to other pollinators
  • Luis thanked Gregor for the support from his team and confirmed he has started to incorporate responsible beekeeping into his talks and this will also be included in the education section of the new strategy

Scottish Government SASA: 2021 delivery overview and next steps

  • Mairi presented the SASA report and highlighted the key achievements completed for each of the four delivery outcomes of the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy, in terms of next steps, SASA will be directed by the new strategy
  • Fiona highlighted SASA are advertising for a PhD student to look at how to manage bees in a sustainable way that has a minimal effect on wild pollinators
  • Mairi suggested issuing a random health survey which would provide useful engagement and data evidence

SBA: 2021 delivery overview and next steps

  • Matthew introduced the SBA report and highlighted the key achievements completed for each of the four delivery outcomes of the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy
  • Phil thanked the SG for their financial support for Magentrix
  • SBA plan to do podcasts and YouTube videos on practical beekeeping and asked if the Bee Inspectorate would like to film a visit from a bee onspector and show what that looks like

Questions and discussion:

  • Luis stated he would support a coordinated approach to training and would be delighted to be involved in the podcasts and videos
  • Julian shared a link with the group of Regional Bee inspector for Wales doing a YouTube video with a commercial beekeeper earlier this year which was a great way to promote inspection as a friendly and helpful service European Foulbrood Diagnosis and Treatment In Honey Bees With The Bee Inspectors
  • Fiona asked what the main bee health priorities looking forward to the new strategy for the SBA were and what is important to their membership, Matthew confirmed EFB and AFB loom large in beekeepers minds and whilst it is important to have foulbrood controls in Scotland, more general bee health education for example on Varroa is key for hobbyists and beginner level education programmes

NDB: 2021 delivery overview and next steps

  • Margaret confirmed two people passed the NDB exam in 2021, NDB will continue to provide education
  • NDB are establishing whether they will receive United Kingdom government funding and if they will be able to provide further education without it

Questions and discussion:

  • Julian confirmed the NBU hope to support NDB with the provision of combs next season for their training and education streams


  • Jim explained the 10 year Pollinator Strategy for Scotland was published in 2017, in the past year, the implementation plan has been revised and can be viewed on their website: NatureScot website
  • regular meetings are now taking place with Scottish Governemnt colleagues and NatureScot’s comms channels have been opened up to the Bee Health team when putting any messages out, these links will continue into the new honey bee health strategy
  • as a small team they rely on partnership working and work with many stakeholders including local authorities and many conservation bodies such as BugLife
  • the annual pollinator progress report is planned for publication in December

Questions and discussion:

  • Phil asked in terms of biosecurity, if there will be more work looking at the relationship between honey bees and wild pollinators, Jim confirmed that he is aware of new research proposals emerging on this topic, and that these would be fed into the group in due course
  • Fiona asked if there is a way beekeepers can get more involved in terms of sustainable beekeeping and planting for pollinators, Jim suggested as local authorities are issuing their own pollinator strategies, beekeepers should contact them direct to find out more


  • Belinda confirmed 2021 has largely been dealing with the realistic aspects of leaving the EU, e.g. focussing on trade and legislation, both of which will continue to be the main focus for some time
  • more regular discussions are taking place between the United Kingdom admin teams to encourage a more coordinated approach to be taken in future
  • in 2020, Defra published the Healthy Bees Plan 2030, the implementation plan for the next 10 years has recently been published and encourages more focus on communication and the better use of science
  • there is also currently an expression of interest being advertised for a science advisor to join the BHAF forum

Questions and discussion:

  • Luis queried whether there were any updates on the domestic regulation changing to allow packages of honey bees into the United Kingdom, Belinda confirmed Defra are still exploring this and discussions are taking place with lawyers
  • much work is taking place in terms of what parts of the Animal Health Reg will be implemented and future trading arrangements, it was noted that it is unlikely there will be any change prior to the start of the next bee season
  • Nick asked where Defra felt there were gaps in science, Belinda confirmed that the use of science could be better translated to be better used by beekeepers as well as sharing experience and science work which has already been completed


Julian highlighted the positive impact that Cristina joining the NBU has had and also provided a general update on staff resources. He also reported that:

  • education activities have been largely online due to coronavirus (COVID-19), 45 virtual training events have taken place
  • honey residue testing continues, two unauthorised products have been withdrawn following inspectors bringing these to the attention of the NBU
  • NBU have found a 26% increase in EFB in England and Wales compared to last year, in certain regions this has been down to a higher stress year for climate
  • some changes to the RAG rues on Beebase has meant they are doing fewer less valuable inspections
  • in 2021, a two year project with BDI started looking at whole apiary shook swarm when EFB is found and if this has a meaningful effect on reduction rates and disease control, it is too early to draw any conclusions
  • Julian presented some slides and an update on the recent Asian Hornet outbreaks in England (the slides will be circulated to the group separately)

Questions and discussion:

  • Nick asked if NBU plan to change their approach to EFB given new evidence/ resource availability, Julian expressed concerns that if there were greater freedoms it would have an impact on hobbyist and craft beekeepers
  • Belinda also confirmed there are no plans to review controls in the near future but would be happy to attend a one off working group to discuss this

The new Scottish honey bee health strategy

  • Alison highlighted to the group that following on from the review of the first strategy, Scottish Government policy have drafted survey questions which were sent to the BHIP group for comment, responses are due back by close on Friday 12 November 
  • the plan is to issue the survey December 2021 and suggest responses should be returned by end of January 2022
  • survey results, along with findings from the review, will give Scottish Government policy a better understanding of how to direct the new strategy where there is a Programme for Government (PfG) commitment to publish by June 2022, the plan is to continue with the current four pillars and introduce an action and implementation plan which details specific targets and delegates activities and tasks to the group
  • Scottish Government policy will continue to work and collaborate with the BHIP on this project and look to potentially start working groups on specific areas moving forward

Questions and discussion:

  • Mairi queried if the survey is aimed at the beekeeping community or the general public, Luis confirmed this will be shared widely and views from those who do not keep bees but have an interest in honey bees are welcomed



Bees Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP)
c/o Scottish Government
Saughton House
EH11 3XD

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