Protecting honey bees

Where to find advice on beekeeping and protecting your honey bees from diseases and pests.

Healthy honey bee populations are vital to the UK’s food and crop production and the natural environment.

A priority for the government is to understand and improve the health and status of honey bee populations in the UK.

National Bee Unit

The National Bee Unit (NBU), part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), is responsible for running the bee health programme for England and Wales.

It supports beekeepers by providing apiary inspections and training on effective bee husbandry, and how to recognise disease.

The NBU also addresses threats to UK bees and apiculture by identifying and preparing for potential pest and disease outbreaks. Working within the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS), the NBU also helps to analyse the causes of suspected bee poisoning incidents.

Get advice on beekeeping

You can find advice on beekeeping on BeeBase, the NBU’s online database.

If you register your details on BeeBase, you can access free NBU services such as eLearning, email updates on current beekeeping issues, and disease alerts.

By registering you’ll also help the NBU to monitor and control the spread of pests and diseases and provide you with up-to-date information on keeping bees healthy and productive.

Controlling bee pests and disease

Report suspect bee diseases or pests

If you are a beekeeper in England and Wales, and you find signs of a notifiable bee disease or pest in your colony, you must contact the NBU and request an inspection of your bees.

Failure to do this is an offence under the Bee Diseases and Pest Control Order 2006 with fines set on a case-by-case basis.

Elsewhere in the UK, you must contact the local office of the relevant government department.

The two notifiable bee pests are:

  • Small hive beetle
  • Tropilaelaps mite

The two notifiable bee diseases are:

  • American foulbrood
  • European foulbrood

If one of these pests or diseases is found in your apiary, the NBU will serve a notice requiring that the hive is treated or destroyed. The inspector will provide you with more information about what you need to do.

See BeeBase for information (and images) on these pests and diseases.

Varroa mite

Varroa, a parasitic mite, is an endemic pest of honey bees in England and Wales and is the main bee health problem for beekeepers. Uncontrolled Varroa can cause severely infested honey bee colonies to collapse within a few weeks.

Although it cannot be eradicated, there are effective methods for its control.

Pesticide treatments for Varroa

To treat against Varroa, you can use approved varroacides listed in the Veterinary Medicine Directorate’s Product Database.

Where there is no suitable veterinary medicine authorised in the UK, treatments can be prescribed on the ‘Cascade’ system.

The Varroa mite can develop resistance to pyrethroids, the active ingredients of some widely used varroacides.

If you have resistant mites in your apiary, you will need to stop using pyrethroids and change to a non-pyrethroid treatment, biotechnical methods, or both – ideally as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) system.

See BeeBase for information on testing for pyrethroid resistance

See Beebase for information on control methods and IPM for managing Varroa.

Importing or moving bees into the UK

If you want to import or move bees into the UK, you must follow animal health requirements in line with national and EU law.

See BeeBase for guidance on how to import bees from EU and countries outside the EU, and post-import controls.

Exporting bees to countries within the EU requires the same health certification as EU imports. You should ask your local bee inspector for an inspection to get a health certificate.


If you are planning to transport or send any bees to another EU Member State you need to be aware of controls on the movement of bee hives into EU designated ‘Fireblight Protected Zones’.

Fireblight is a serious bacterial plant disease. To prevent the spread of this disease, restrictions apply to the movement of hives into EU Fireblight Protected Zones between 15 March and 30 June.

Contacts for further information

National Bee Unit

National Bee Unit
Animal and Plant Health Agency
National Agri-Food Innovation Campus
Sand Hutton
YO41 1LZ

Telephone: 0300 3030094
Fax: 01904 462240

Bee health policy

Telephone: 0207 238 2017

Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme helpline: 0800 321 600