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Recent News Items

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June 2017 - High Mite Levels in Colonies

In some regions of the UK, colonies are starting to show symptoms of high levels of Varroa mites, for example wing deformities and perforated cappings. Therefore, it might be prudent to start monitoring colony mite populations and information on how to do this can be found on page 15 of the Managing Varroa booklet. Also, the Varroa calculator can be used to help calculate your estimated mite population in your colonies:

If your colonies have a high amount of Varroa, i.e 1000 mites after calculating it from the average drop, you may want to treat them with a registered varroacide. Suitable treatments where brood is present would include:

Apilife Var;
Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) and;

If you wish to use an oxalic acid based product then a broodless condition should be created first. Additionally, if you have honey for human consumption on the hives, remember that MAQs is currently the only registered product which can be used. When using any medicines it is important to remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

*Mite resistance to these products have been recorded and so a resistance test (the Beltsville test) should be carried out before using the product.

April 2017 - Seasonal Bee Inspector Vacancies

The National Bee Unit has Seasonal Bee Inspector Posts advertised on the Civil Service Jobs website. The areas we are recruiting for are:

1536718. DEF/196/17 Seasonal Bee Inspector - Home Based - Southern England - Dorset

1536726. DEF/195/17 Seasonal Bee Inspector - Home Based - Eastern England - South Suffolk/North Essex

1536751. DEF/194/17 Seasonal Bee Inspector - Home Based - Western Region - Herefordshire

If you are interested in applying for the post then please use one of the links above. If you have any questions about any of the posts, please do not hesitate to contact the named person on the vacancy information.

March 2017 - Asian hornet monitoring trap making video

The National Bee Unit is proud to announce that a video which outlines how to make our Asian hornet monitoring trap is now available on Youtube to view:

This aims to complement our trap making Fact Sheet titled: A simple Asian hornet monitoring trap .

We hope that you find it informative and useful.

Kind regards,

National Bee Unit

March 2017 - Non Native Invasive Species Week

Monday saw the launch of a new smartphone app 'Asian hornet watch' which is aimed to help members of the public to identify and report sightings of the Asian hornet. People will be able to use the free app to quickly and easily report possible sightings of the invasive species and send pictures of suspect insects to experts at the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, Nonative Species Secretariat and National Bee Unit.

The Asian hornet, aka, the yellow legged hornet are a huge threat to our native honey bees, which is why it is important for us to remain vigilant.

Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner said:
“This innovative new app is designed to be easy to use and allows people to report quickly any possible sightings of Asian hornets, which will help us to halt their spread".

“This invasive species poses a threat to our native honey bees and we must do all we can to encourage vigilance - this new technology will advance this.”

The interactive app, developed by the Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, will also make it easier for people to judge whether an insect may actually be an Asian hornet; with pictures available of other insects that it could be confused with and helpful information about their size, appearance and the times of year they are most likely to be spotted.

If there is a sighting of the Asian hornet, the government’s well established protocol for eradicating the species will kick quickly into action: This was the case in Gloucestershire last Autumn, when bee inspectors rapidly tracked down and destroyed an Asian hornet nest, containing any further outbreak:

Additional information on the hornet is available from our website:

where you will find an ID sheet, poster and information on additional routes to report any suspect sightings. 

For more information on the Non Native Invasive Species week visit the Non native Species Secretariat website:

February 2017 - Generic Contingency for Animal and Plant Health Published

The generic contingency plan for Plant and Bee Health in England  has been published and can be viewed on the Gov.UK website:

The Contingency Plan describes how Defra and operational partners have prepared for, and in the event of an outbreak, would respond to an outbreak of a plant or bee pest or disease in England.

More information about pest specific contingency plans for Bee Health can also be found on our Contingency pages of BeeBase:

February 2017 - Seasonal Bee Inspector Vacancies

The National Bee Unit has Seasonal Bee Inspector Posts advertised on the Civil Service Jobs website. The areas we are recruiting for are:

Northern (Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, Durham);

Western (West Midlands);

Southern (Berkshire), and;

Wales (Mid and South Glamorgan).

If you are interested in applying for the post then please use one of the links above. If you have any questions about any of the posts, please do not hesitate to contact the relevant Regional Bee Inspector, or the National Bee Unit Office on 0300 3030094 or email

January 2017 - Asian hornet in the UK: Update and Request for Heightened Vigilance.

Dear Beekeepers,

As you are aware, Vespa velutina nigrothorax, the yellow-legged hornet (a.k.a the Asian hornet) was found in the UK last season. The first European incursion of this hornet was reported in France in 2004. The Asian hornet has since spread around 80-100 km per year, invading Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Belgium. Adult hornets are voracious predators of honey bees and other beneficial insects, resulting in colony losses in France. In September 2016, foraging Asian hornets were reported near Tetbury in Gloucestershire, and a trapped individual was reported from Somerset. The nest near Tetbury was found and destroyed by National Bee Unit Inspectors and members of the Wildlife team in the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Despite extensive field inspections, no further foraging Asian hornets were sighted in Somerset. Whilst this is good news, the ability of the Asian hornet to spread rapidly means that we must remain vigilant and aware of any possible activity across a wide area and with spring fast approaching, there is an opportunity for us all to monitor and trap any potential foundress queens.

In spring, surviving V. velutina queens begin a small primary nest, often in a sheltered location such as in the eaves of a roof or in a garden shed. Here they raise the first clutch of workers who take over the queen’s foraging duties. At this stage the nest grows quickly, and the hornets often move to establish a secondary nest where there is more space to expand. These nests can become very large, and are often located high up in the tree canopy, close to a food source such as apiaries, (see images on BeeBase for further details).

From late September to October, the mature nest produces males and then virgin queens, which mate and disperse. However, the beginning of this stage of nest reproduction can vary, depending on climatic conditions. In France, a single mature nest produces on average 11 foundress queens after taking into account overwintering mortality of the potentially hundreds of queens that first disperse in autumn.

A consortium of scientists from the NBU and the Universities of Warwick and Newcastle have used data on the spread of the Asian hornet in France to develop a mathematical model that can estimate the hornet spread in the UK. The highly mobile nature of the hornet means that the range of possible additional nest locations in 2016, estimated using the model, covers a wide area, see Figure 1 for details.

Figure 1 Map showing the potential spread of Asian hornet in 2016 using a mathematical model based on Franklin et al. 2016 (In Press). The dark orange squares represent the locations of Asian hornet discoveries in Tetbury and Somerset. The yellow area defines a boundary, outside of which we would not expect, according to the model, to find a nest.

In the spring, Asian hornets can be trapped by using either commercial traps, which are available off the shelf or a home-made model e.g. by using the NBU modified hornet monitoring trap. If we know they are present in an area we can take action quickly to prevent populations expanding.

There is a helpful Asian hornet identification sheet and poster on Beebase along with a fact sheet which outlines how to make our own NBU design, and, what baits would be suitable during the different seasons of the year. See:

Should you find a suspect Asian hornet or nest, please contact the Non Native Species Secretariat immediately using their alert email address:

Give as much information as possible. Please include details such as your name, the location where the hornet was found and if possible an image of the specimen. Please do not put yourself in any danger of getting stung when trying to take a photo. Even if you are unsure of whether it is an Asian hornet, send it in anyway – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

We thank you in advance for your co-operation and vigilance.

Kind regards,
National Bee Unit

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