Press release

Boost for bee health

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

New plans to help beekeepers protect their hives from pests and diseases to reduce bee population losses have been unveiled.

Defra and the Welsh Government have outlined proposals which will help beekeepers to identify and manage pests such as the potentially devastating Varroa mite, considered the single greatest problem for beekeepers.

There are estimated to be up to 44,000 beekeepers in the UK, of which more than 99 per cent are amateurs. A consultation has been published today seeking views from amateur keepers and commercial bee farmers on how best to provide more support to improve honey bee health.

Animal Welfare Minister, Lord de Mauley, said:

Honeybees are an iconic species which are vital to the environment and I want to make sure that we do all we can to safeguard their future.

But these bees are susceptible to pests and diseases and need to be cared for properly to aid their long-term survival, which is why we’re consulting on new measures to help beekeepers and improve bee health.

The proposals include:

  • Increased effort to tackle the management of the Varroa mite, including improved guidance for bee keepers from the National Bee Unit (NBU), and a new enhanced rolling training programme run by the NBU and beekeeping associations for all bee keepers;
  • Rewarding bee farmers demonstrating good management of their hives, including reducing the number of official inspections they require from Government;
  • Renewed emphasis on increasing our resilience and preparedness for exotic threats, such as the small hive beetle;
  • A new welfare code to remind beekeepers of their responsibility to their bees.

The new plans have been drawn up by beekeeping experts including representatives from Defra and the Welsh Government, the NBU, the British Beekeepers Association the Bee Farmers Association and the Welsh Beekeepers Association.

Notes to editors

Advice on beekeeping can be found on the NBU’s BeeBase website www.nationalbeeunit.com. The website also contains details on how to join BeeBase, a free database which links apiarists with other nearby beekeepers to help track pests and disease that might be a problem in the area and provides guidance on how to tackle them.

The consultation will run from the 10 January to 9 March and you can send your views to Defra by following this link: http://bit.ly/TL1UlK.