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Recent News Items

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September 2015 - Update on Small hive beetle in Italy

In late 2014, Small hive beetle had been confirmed in 61 apiaries within the three Italian provinces of Reggio Calabria, Vibo Valentia (both located in the Calabria region) and in Siracusa (located in the Sicilia region), Italy. The last confirmed infested apiary was found on the 23rd December 2014 in Gioia Tauro, Calabria.

Throughout 2015 surveillance has continued. On the 16th September 2015, 9 months from the last detection, an infested apiary was confirmed in the municipality of Taurianova, Reggio Calabria. This case is within the existing 20km protection zone of the first detection. Both adult beetles and larvae were found in an apiary of 32 hives. Eight of the hives were infested. The same eradication control measures were taken by the Italian authorities including destruction of all hives within the affected apiary.

UK authorities remain active in preparing and monitoring for the Small hive beetle. Contingency training exercises were run by the National Bee Unit (NBU) in Exeter and Cardiff to test existing plans and protocols, with particular emphasis on detection and controls of the Small hive beetle. Lessons will be taken forward to ensure the UK is best placed to tackle this pest should it arrive in the UK. Updated husbandry and management methods for controlling Small hive beetle have been included in our advisory leaflets to be published later this year.

Further information on the latest finding in Italy will follow.
Details are available on the European Union Reference Laboratory website and Italian National Reference Laboratory website

September 2015 - Wasp alert.

Many beekeepers will be aware that apiaries across the UK are being plagued by wasps. Inspectors are finding some apiaries where small and weak colonies have already been killed and robbed out and continuing harrassment by the pest is leading to attrition in some of the stronger colonies. This problem is likely to continue through to October and without action, could lead to further colony losses. With the prospective high levels of wasp populations and the possibility of earlier wasp colony collapse, be on your guard and take preventative measures. Generally strong healthy colonies can defend themselves but smaller colonies, nuclei, etc., are at a higher risk of robbing. The presence of varroa mites, especially if mite populations are over the economic treatment threshold, also increases the risk. There are three elements of control that beekeepers can use:

  • Trapping wasps in the apiary.

    Placing wasp traps such as jars containing a mixture of water, a teaspoon of jam and some wine or beer dregs will help. Cover the jar aperture with a lid or paper cap and punch a hole in it about the diameter of a pencil. Plum jam seems to be best! Do not use honey, sugar syrup or Ambrosia. Wasps will go these traps as an easier option than bee hives and drown.

    Commercial traps such as ‘WaspBane’, which may be more effective and easier to use, are available from some bee equipment suppliers and other commercial outlets.

  • Assisting the bee colony.

    Reduce the hive entrance to make it easier for the bees to defend the colony. With severe problems cut the entrance to a single bee-way. A small tube entrance can be easier for bees to defend. Closing open mesh floors with the floor insert will also help.

  • Controlling wasp nests in the environment.

    Destroying nests in the spring and summer is clearly a good method of reducing the overall wasp population and reducing robbing problems; so ensuring no wasps’ nests are close to your apiary helps. However destruction of wasp colonies on a wide scale is disadvantageous to the environment.

August 2015 - National Bee Unit eLearning

The NBU would like to announce that its eLearning programme for beekeepers is now live and ready for use. The first module ‘Honey Bee Pests, Diseases and Viruses’ covers six main topics; Exotic Threats, Foulbrood, Varroa, Adult Bee Diseases and Viruses, Other Brood Disorders and Other Pests. To access this free and exciting platform, you will need to log into BeeBase where you will find an eLearning link to the left hand side of the navigation panel. When clicking on this, you will be re-directed to the eLearning platform where you can access the content. Like all of our material, the aim of the module is to provide you with a good understanding of the issues that might affect colony health. It will be available on most mobile devices and tablets, although you will need to make sure that your web browser is up to date, otherwise you may experience compatibility issues with some of the content.

We would encourage all beekeepers to use this tool to aid their own personal development and as always, would welcome any feedback on the platform.

August 2015 - Starvation Risk

In many areas of the UK nectar flows have ceased and reports are coming in from Regional and Seasonal Bee Inspectors of starving bee colonies, where the beekeeper is not aware that the bees are severely short of food, or the colony(s) have already starved to death. It is also apparent that Wasps are becoming populous in many areas and they too are desperate for nutrition so Beekeepers should be mindful of the need to protect hives from Wasp invasion particularly where feeding is taking place in the apiary.

Colonies particularly at Risk are:

• Bee Colonies where supers of honey have been removed this season and no feeding has taken place.
• Splits / Artificial Swarms and Nucleus colonies made up this year.
• Swarms collected this year where little or no supplementary feeding has taken place.

Immediate action:

• Firstly - Check all colonies feed levels by ‘hefting the hive’ – Check the weight of the colony by lifting below the floor on both sides of the hive to see how much it weighs (Photograph attached - Hefting a Hive). Where the hive is light, liquid feed should be applied directly above the bees. Remove any supers from above the brood box which are empty or have few bees in them. This will help the bees get to the food quickly.
• Feed can be sugar and water mixed at 2:1 ratio or one of the proprietary ready mixed syrups available from Beekeeping Equipment Suppliers.
• Fondant can be used in an emergency if nothing else is available – but liquid feed will be more appropriate at this time of the season.
• Large starving colonies of bees will take 1 gallon (Approx 5 Litres) of syrup very quickly – smaller colonies ½ gallon (Approx 2.5 Litres) may be sufficient to keep them going, but after feeding heft hives again and check the weight – if in doubt feed some more in a few days time.

Further information and Guidance:

Further information on supplementary feeding can be found on Beebase – Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Emergency Feeding’

August 2015 - Seasonal Bee Inspector Recruitments

This year the National Bee Unit received over 80 applications for Seasonal Bee Inspector Vacancies for 9 Positions in 6 Regions. Of those a total of 34 people were invited to Sand Hutton for Interviews and Practical Testing. The list below shows the successful candidates and the regions and areas in which they will be working.

National Bee Inspector Andy Wattam said “I welcome them all to the NBU Team and wish them every success in this interesting, demanding and at times difficult role – I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Seasonal Bee Inspector between 2002 and 2005 and made many great friends along the way”

The new Seasonal Bee Inspectors for the 9 posts are listed below, along with their working areas:

Kay Wreford - South Eastern England Region. (Kent / Surrey Borders)

Jenny Whitham - Western England Region. (Shropshire / Welsh Borders)

Nick Mitchell - North Eastern England Region. (East Yorkshire)

Gordon Bull - Southern England Region. (Northamptonshire & Gloucestershire / Oxfordshire Borders)

Eric James - South Western England Region. (Cornwall)

Leila Goss - South Western England Region. (Devon)

Hazel Vallis - South Western England Region. (Cornwall)

Graham Royle - Northern England Region. (Cheshire)

Mark McLoughlin - Northern England Region. (The Wirral)

July 2015 - Recruitment of New Regional Bee Inspector

Following the departure earlier this year of Regional Bee Inspector Charles Millar, The National Bee Unit is pleased to announce the appointment of Jo Schup as the New Regional Bee Inspector for the Western England Region which comprises the counties of: Warwickshire, West Midlands, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

Jo’s training as Regional Bee Inspector started in April 2015 with National Bee Inspector Andy Wattam - this is an ongoing development programme – although she has now taken over Managerial Responsibility for the Region and its team of Six Seasonally Employed Bee Inspectors.

Jo lives in the village of Whixall in North Shropshire and has been a beekeeper for 20 years. She has previously worked as a Seasonal Bee Inspector in Shropshire and Staffordshire and is well known to many beekeepers in those areas.

As well as running 30 colonies of bees – Jo has also studied the BBKA modules and practical examinations and was awarded the Wax Chandlers Prize in 2011 for best Master Beekeeper qualifying that year. In her past life Jo worked as a Customer Services Manager for companies including Apple Computers Inc., Federal Express and Symantec. Jo and her husband now own and run a 23 acre smallholding comprising of suckler cows, pedigree sheep, pigs and hens.

Commenting on the appointment Jo said: ”I am excited to be taking on this role and look forward to working with the Beekeepers and Bee Inspectors in the Western England Region and continuing the excellent work done by Charles Millar”

July 2015 - SmartBees Newsletter

For those of you who may be unaware, The National Bee Unit has been collaborating with 15 other working groups across Europe to find new approaches which will help advance the understanding of the complex interactions between the Honey bee (host), its parasitic mite; Varroa, and the pathogen (DWV), with the ultimate aim of breeding Varroa resistant honey bees. The EU is consequently supporting a research project, with the support of Defra Bee Health Policy, over the next four years, within the context of the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) entitled “Sustainable Management of Resilient Bee Populations” or SMARTBEES. This project began on 1st November 2014, and is comprised of 9 work packages (WP), which divide up the research activities, and will cover almost the entire European continent.

This month, the SmartBees project published the first of a series of biannual newsletters which further detail it's progress on the project:

newsletter 1: Gives a short summary of the project and the aims of the different working groups. In addition the writers also describe in more detail, two of the on-going tasks; 1. The new dissemination strategies and extension tools for Bee-keepers needs 2. Training activities for initiating European wide honey bee breeding

April 2015 - Asian Hornet Videos on YouTube

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has a YouTube channel which the National Bee Unit will use to share videos on in the future. Recently, we uploaded our experiences of the Asian Hornet in Andernos-les-Bains, South West France.

The YouTube channel can be found here:

The NBU would like to thank the Beekeepers and the Mairie of Andernos-les-Bains for the warm welcome received, for the time taken to teach their methods of controlling the hornet and for sharing their experiences, which will hold us in good stead for the potential arrival of this exotic threat.

April 2015 - Small hive beetle confirmed in South West Italy

On September 11 2014, the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie Italian National Reference Laboratory for Apiculture confirmed the first detection of the presence of Small hive beetle (SHB) in South West Italy, in the port city of Gioia Tauro. 

Since its discovery, urgent measures are underway to measure the extent of the outbreak, complete tracings (sales and movements of bees from the area) and eradicate and control its spread in line with EU legislation and safeguards. Measures include the destruction of all colonies where the beetle is found and treatment of surrounding soil in the apiaries. Details of the current situation can be found here.

Since 2011, there has been a substantial level of imports of package bees and queens from Italy into the UK. The National Bee Unit (NBU) has now reinspected all Package bees imported from Italy this year across England and Wales, all negative for SHB. Beekeepers are reminded to remain vigilant when checking their colonies and to immediately report any suspicious sightings to the NBU. 

For more information about this exotic pest and the things beekeepers should do are illustrated in the NBU advisory leaflet ‘The Small hive beetle’. 

Updates on the outbreak will be placed on the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie website above, and on the ANSES European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for honey bee health website.

And also please see the Q&A below for more information.

SHB Q&A September 2014

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