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How to Send in Samples to the Laboratory

If you suspect that there may be something wrong with your bees or there is something you are just not sure about, you may wish to send a sample to the NBU laboratory for diagnosis. Please follow the guidelines below for sending in samples. Hopefully your bees will not have any problems, but if you do find something amiss, we will do all we can to help you.

For further information please see this presentation on sampling advice (pdf).

Suspected Foulbrood
For cases of suspected foulbrood disease, please contact your local Bee Inspector or the NBU office. Click here for a list of Bee Inspectors.

Adult Bee Disease Diagnosis
The National Bee Unit has discontinued the adult bee disease screening service which tested samples of bees for the presence of Nosema spp., Amoeba and Acarine (tracheal mites). In previous years, the demand for this non statutory commercial service has been high which has warranted the need for a commercial service. However, in recent years the number of samples and requests by beekeepers for an adult bee disease screening has reduced dramatically, with the service rarely being used throughout the year.

After 4 April 2016, any samples submitted for an adult bee disease screening will be kept for a week while we contact the relevant beekeeper to see if they would like the sample returning to them. Beekeepers who wish to have the bees tested for non-statutory diseases may still be able to obtain help from their local associations.

Fera Science Limited will continue to offer molecular testing for the detection honey bee diseases caused by various viruses, bacterial and fungal pathogens. For further information on molecular testing please contact Victoria Tomkies (

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) at Fera Science Limited.

Suspected Poisoning
Suspected poison honey bee samples are investigated as part of the Wildlife Investigation Scheme. At least 200 bees are required for a full analysis for a poisoning sample, approximately the number that will fit into a ‘Cooks’ matchbox (the large ones). These need to be securely packaged, not in a plastic bag and preferably not flattened and sent to National Bee Unit, The Animal and Plant Health Agency, Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ. A Bee Inspector should be contacted before a sample is submitted under this scheme.
Suspected Exotic Pests
We are asking beekeepers to watch out for the Small Hive Beetle and other potential problems such as Tropilaelaps mites; if you think you may have found either of these you must contact the NBU immediately. If you do find anything suspicious please do not hesitate to send it into the NBU as it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you send anything in for identification it is wise to kill the pest first, the best method for this is to place it in the freezer for at least two hours. Again the same rules apply for sending in samples, use a suitable sturdy container (cardboard rather than plastic) and provide as much detail as possible about the sample, what you want it to be tested for and where it was found.


All queen cages with attendent workers from third countries should be sent into the NBU laboratory for examination, please see the Imports and Exports pages for clarification and guidelines.

Voluntary Samples
If you suspect your colony has foulbrood and an Inspector is unable to get to the apiary promptly, you can use the voluntary sample submission form to submit a comb or larval sample to our laboratory. Please follow the simple guidelines for sending in samples.

The form can also be used for suspect exotic pests. In this case, please fill in as much information on the form as possible so that we can contact you should we require more infomation.  

Postage Costs
When sending in samples to the NBU, please keep in mind the recent changes that Royal Mail have made to their delivery charges. Click here for more information.