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All News Items

View this year's news stories only

August 2017 - Autumn Management

As we approach the autumn season, you may be planning what to do in order to successfully over winter your colonies. Remember the start of the 2018 beekeeping year begins now and anything you do or do not do to your colonies will have repercussions on their ability to overwinter successfully, and on their subsequent performance in the following year. To help you out, we’ve put together a checklist of tasks to carry out before you ‘put your bees to bed’ for winter.

Good quality stocks of bees

Colonies which have poorly performed during the season e.g. the queen has had a bad laying pattern, or any colonies which are headed by queens older than say two years should ideally be replaced by a good quality and newly mated queen. This will set the colony in good stead for next year as young queens are more prolific and produce a strong population of honey bees necessary for the colony to successfully overwinter. Younger queens are also unlikely to be superseded in the spring at a time when the colony is more vulnerable and if the older queen is killed, it is unlikely that a replacement queen will be available to keep the colony going.

If, in the following year you wish to use any of the older queens for breeding purposes and want to graft from her young larvae, then removing her from the main colony and over-wintering her in a nuc will increase the likelihood of her surviving into the following spring.

At the beginning of the “Healthy Bees Plan” a series of Best Practice Factsheets were produced, and we think it’s an opportune time to dig the one out about “Obtaining Honey Bees” as a reminder of the sound advice it contains The fact sheet, along with all of the others can be found here.

When buying bees:

  • Ascertain that the stocks offered are suitable for your needs. Try to avoid sourcing bees from outside your area as it could accelerate the spread of pests and diseases. Many beekeepers consider that local strains generally suit the natural flora of that locality;
  • Use a reputable supplier. References from other beekeepers may help you choose;
  • Check with the supplier where the queen has come from. It is not always clear what strain of honey bee you are obtaining and whether the queen has been bred by the supplier, bought in or imported;
  • If you import bees then make sure that you do this carefully. Follow the import rules if they come from outside the country through the proper channels of health certification. Guidance on how to do this can be found here.

    Try to source locally reared stocks of queens from local breeders. If you buy bees or queens, keep a record of the bee movement and any sales so that you are able to trace where the bees came from. It is important that if disease is found in the purchased colony, we are able to trace where they have come from in order to track the disease back to the source.

    Pest and disease checks and medicine Treatments

    There will always be variation in when beekeepers need to treat for Varroa but it is especially important to monitor mite populations going into autumn. If the levels are high and warrant treatment, only registered products should be applied by using the label instructions. Failure to treat promptly could risk infection with Varroa transmitted viruses in the developing brood. This brood would be the bees which will carry the colony through winter and if infected, will be unable to do so.

    Remember to do a full inspection of the colonies for the presence of pests and diseases; so for foul brood carefully examine each comb. Checks also for the presence of exotic threats such as the small hive beetle should be done, and details of how to do this can be found in the NBU leaflets. Early recognition is absolutely key to successful pest and disease control.

    If you are not already doing so, don’t forget to also monitor for the Asian hornet. As we approach autumn, you are likely to also see them foraging on Ivy or other nectar producing food sources as well as hawking in front of hives in apiaries.

    Adequate Feeding

    As a rule of thumb, a full size colony should have about 25kg+ of honey stores to get through the winter and into the first part of our unpredictable springs. Therefore, many beekeepers will feed around 25kg of thick sugar syrup (1kg of sugar to 630ml of water) between August and September. This amount of feed would usually last a colony 5 – 6 months during the winter, however, with changeable weather, food stores should be monitored after the New Year and if they look like they are running short, sugar candy of some type can be fed. Don’t forget colonies also need adequate pollen provisions and will need two full sized deep frames of pollen to see them over winter. If this is not present, then a suitable pollen substitute should be fed, readily obtainable from the bee equipment suppliers.

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

December 2016 - 2016 Hive Count Reminder

Dear All,

Don’t forget we need you to update your colony records on BeeBase by 31st December. You can do this by clicking this link to update your Hive Count.

More details of this project, its importance and why we need your help can be found on the Hive Count page on BeeBase.

If you have any further questions, please visit the Hive Count page on BeeBase or contact us at

The project is led by the National Bee Unit and supported by Defra, Welsh Government, Scottish Government, DARDNI, the British Beekeepers Association, the Welsh Beekeepers Association, the Scottish Beekeepers Association, International Bee Research Association, and the National Diploma in Beekeeping.

December 2016 - Scheduled BeeBase Maintenance - 28/12/2016

Due to scheduled maintenance, BeeBase will be unavailable on 28th December 2016 between 17:00 and 20:00. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

October 2016 - Launch of Bee Friendly/Caru Gwenyn

Bleddyn Lake of Friends of the Earth Cymru launched the Action Plan for Pollinator Task Force’s new initiative, Bee Friendly/Caru Gwenyn at the Wales Biodiversity Conference.

Bee Friendly is a brand new initiative aimed at communities and community organisations, schools, public bodies, town and community councils, businesses, universities and colleges, places of worship……and many other organisations, all around Wales.

We think it is the first co-ordinated national scheme of its kind and has at its heart – making Wales a Pollinator- Friendly country.

Although the scheme is called Bee Friendly, we want people to take action to help all our pollinators, and not just bees.

Whether you are a part of a Bee Friendly scheme, a member of one of our many supporter organisations or a concerned individual, take a look to see what actions you can take to make our world a little bit greener – discover the Bee Friendly Action Guide Cymraeg, the Bee Friendly Action Guide English, the Bee Friendly Flyer Cymraeg, the Bee Friendly Flyer English, the FAQ, application form and plant list.

All the resources are available on the Action Plan for Pollinators section of the WBP website

October 2016 - A confirmed finding of Asian hornet north of the Mendip Hills in Somerset

As with the first sighting, work to find, destroy and remove any nests is already underway, and includes:

• setting up a three mile surveillance zone around the location of the initial sighting
• opening a local control centre to coordinate the response
• deploying bee inspectors across the area who will use infrared cameras and traps to locate any nests
• readying nest disposal experts who will use pesticides to kill the hornets and destroy any nests

Bee inspectors in Somerset will be supported by nest disposal experts who will use an approved pesticide to destroy any hornets and remove any nests.

The first Asian hornet confirmed in the UK was discovered in the Tetbury area. A nest in the area has since been found, treated with pesticide and destroyed. No further live Asian hornets have been sighted in the area since the nest was removed.

Husbandry Advice:

It is very important that beekeepers remain vigilant and monitor their apiaries and surrounding forage for any Asian hornet activity. At this time of the year, Asian hornets can be seen foraging on the ivy for nectar and preying on other foraging insects for protein.

Traps should also be hung out and closely monitored. When using bait, please refrain from using light beer or lager mixed with sugar as this does not work. In France a Dark beer, mixed with 25ml of strawberry syrup and 25ml of orange liqueur has proven to work well.

Additionally, a protein bait of mashed fish e.g. prawns or trout, diluted to 25% has also proven effective. Anyone wishing to make their own traps may find the following factsheet useful: How to make a homemade Asian hornet monitoring trap.

Further guidance on identifying the Asian hornet can be found on the Asian hornet pages of Beebase where you will find a very useful Asian hornet ID sheet and Asian hornet poster. Any suspected Asian hornet sightings should be reported to

If you are not sure, please still send in a sample for ID or report any sightings. When emailing, please include your name, the location of the sighting and if possible, a photograph of the hornet. Please do not put yourself in any danger of getting stung when trying to take a photo.

September 2016 - Asian hornet nest found and destroyed

An Asian hornet nest (image 1) has been located and destroyed by experts in the Tetbury area. The nest (image 2) was found at the top of a 55 foot tall conifer tree (image 3). Inspectors from the National Bee Unit are continuing to monitor the area for Asian hornets alongside local beekeepers. However to date, no live hornets have been seen since the nest was removed.

We urge anyone to report suspect Asian hornet sightings to

Further guidance on the Asian hornet can be found on the Asian hornet pages of Beebase where you will find a very useful Asian hornet ID sheet sheet and Asian hornet poster which is available for identification purposes.

September 2016 - Asian Hornet Identified in Gloucestershire

Please be aware that we are experiencing a high volume of calls so please use the below guidance for all enquiries relating to Asian hornet sightings.

The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in Gloucestershire – the first time the hornet has been discovered in the UK.

The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than a bee. However, they do pose a risk to honey bees.

Work to identify, destroy and remove any nests is already underway, which includes:

• opening a local control centre to coordinate the response;

• deploying bee inspectors across the area, and;

• readying nest disposal experts who will use pesticides to kill the hornets and destroy any nests.

Further guidance on the Asian hornet can be found on the Asian hornet pages of Beebase where you will find a very useful  Asian hornet ID sheet and  Asian hornet poster which is available for identification purposes.

Any suspected Asian hornet sightings should be reported to . When emailing, please include your name, the location of the sighting and if possible, a photograph of the hornet. Please do not put yourself in any danger of getting stung when trying to take a photo.

Should you wish to monitor for the hornet, we have designed  A simple monitoring trap for the Asian hornet

Please could all media enquiries be directed to the Defra press Office: 0208 225 7896

For details on the full press release please visit the webpage.

September 2016 - RESOLVED - Varroa Calculator

This issue has now been resolved. Please contact us if you experience any problems when using the calculator.

06/09/2016 - Please be aware we are currently experiencing an issue with our online Varroa calculator. We apologise for any inconvenience, please bear with us whilst we investigate this issue.

September 2016 - Bee Connected

BeeConnected is an online crop spraying alert system which brings a new way of dealing with a long-standing practice: farmers informing beekeepers of an intention to apply an insecticide. The system operates on a very simple, yet efficient, two-way communication process: with a few simple clicks beekeepers will be able to plot the location of their hives. Similarly, farmers will identify their fields and inform local beekeepers when they intend to spray an insecticide in particular fields.

Beekeepers will get accurate up-to-date information of a spray event happening in their area and can respond to that information rapidly, even if that decision is to do nothing. The system also includes a “BeeMail” facility which enables farmers and beekeepers to communicate anonymously, providing an opportunity for further discussion without revealing personal details, unless either party chooses to do so. Put simply, BeeConnected a new and improved way of doing something farmers and beekeepers have always needed to do: communicate.

The website ( will be up and running from the 12th of September, however, beekeepers and farmers can register on the database now. If anyone has any questions or comments, they can contact the site administrator on:

The project is a joint venture between the BBKA, the Crop Protection Association, the National Farmers’ Union and the Voluntary Initiative.

August 2016 - The Yellow Legged Hornet, aka Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, found in Alderney and Jersey.

On the 9th August 2016 an amateur entomologist reported a sighting of an adult Asian Hornet from a photograph they took on the island of Jersey at Mount Bingham, St Helier ( image was sent to us at the National Bee Unit for identification and was confirmed as an Asian Hornet. This incident follows the discovery of a nest of Asian Hornets in July, and, in Alderney which was destroyed as a precaution against further nests establishing on the island. Since the discovery, the area has been searched and no further hornet activity detected.

Although this finding may be alarming in the first instance, we should be encouraged that members of the public are correctly identifying the hornet so that quick intervention can be taken, resulting in swift nest destructions and stopping the further spread of the hornet, beyond French shores.

Thank you to everyone who is looking out for the Asian Hornet, and to those of you who have gone to the time and trouble to report suspect sightings. Your help is really appreciated, and anyone who believes they have found an Asian Hornet should send in a photograph of the insect for identification to either or .

July 2016 - Asian Hornet Sightings: What To Do

Following recent press articles there have been many reports of potential Asian hornet, (Vespa velutina) sightings across the UK. We would like to re-assure everybody that there have been no confirmed sightings of Asian hornets in the UK, and so far all hornet reportings received by the National Bee Unit have been identified as the native European hornet, Vespa crabro.

Experts at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology confirm that the hornet picture taken in Kent and featured in the press is not an Asian hornet - which would be darker in colouration, and that the size suggests European hornet.

The Asian hornet or yellow-legged hornet, is smaller than our native hornet, with characteristic yellow legs, a dark velvety thorax, and a dark abdomen with a distinctive yellow band on the fourth segment.

We are aware of the potential impacts they could have on honey bees and have contingency plans in place to remove them if they are identified. This includes comprehensive monitoring and teams ready to destroy any confirmed nests.

For those who think they have seen an Asian hornet please first read the Asian hornet ID sheet which outlines the main differences between the native European hornet and this Asian hornet.

There is more information on the Asian hornet pages of BeeBase.

If you still believe you have seen the Asian hornet after reading this ID sheet, please report it to the email address below, together with a photograph and location details:

For more information about the Asian hornet and the work of the Non Native Species Secretariat, visit their website here:

National Bee Unit

July 2016 - NBU Phone Line Issues

RESOLVED: 18/07/2016

We are currently experiencing problems with our phone lines, we apologise for any inconvenience.

Until the issue is resolved please contact the NBU via our email address or for urgent enquiries please contact 07775 119439.

May 2016 - Update on Small hive beetle in Italy

A new case of Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) has been confirmed in the Gioia Tauro area of Calabria, Italy. Further details can be found on the Italian National Reference Laboratory website.

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 las year 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.

April 2016 - Low food stores and high mite levels

Food stores

Beekeepers may wish to monitor their colony food levels closely over the next month as in many northern parts of the UK, the weather is still changeable and foraging opportunities for large colonies are few and far between. It is important to check and monitor all your colonies feed levels, if you do not wish to open them up, lift below the floor, in turn, on both sides of the hive to see how much it weighs. 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 1:1 ratio or one of the proprietary ready mixed syrups available from Beekeeping Equipment Suppliers. More information about mixing up sugar can be found in the Best Practice Guidelines no. 7

Fondant can also be used. Large starving colonies of bees will take 1 gallon (approx. 5 Litres) of syrup very quickly while smaller colonies will take half a gallon (approx. 2.5 Litres). After feeding, heft the hives again and check the weight and if in doubt feed some more in a few days’ time.

Some colonies in northern areas of the UK have low levels of pollen, which is essential for brood production. If this is the case, then some form of pollen patty will need to be given to colonies which should be placed directly above the brood nest, after you have fed any syrup.

Mite levels
Some of you may not have gotten round to treating your colonies with oxalic acid as the weather was so mild in winter. Treatments that were applied in winter may have had lower than normal efficacy due to the presence of brood and therefore beekeepers may want to consider treating colonies again, especially where bees are showing signs of deformed wings. Thymol based products and formic acid pads may be ineffective at the present time as daytime temperatures respectively of 12-15 °C or above are recommended. Neither should MAQS strips be used on smaller colonies.

Therefore contact strips such as Apistan or Bayvarol may be beneficial, these offer a rapid knock down in severely infested colonies. However, resistance to these products has been reported in some areas and therefore colonies will need to be monitored after the treatment and an alternative treatment applied if necessary later in the season.

Alternatively, Apivar & Biowar (Amitraz) are available under the EU Cascade system by using a special import certificate. For more information about this, contact your local vet.

April 2016 - Adult Bee Disease Diagnostic Services

Dear Beekeepers,

From the 4th April, the National Bee Unit will be discontinuing the adult bee disease screening service which test 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 ( at Fera Science Limited.

Kind regards, 

National Bee Unit.

March 2016 - Seasonal Bee Inspector Vacancies

The National Bee Unit has a number of vacancies for Seasonal Bee Inspectors (SBIs). If you are interested in applying please use the following link  SBI Jobs and use the following search criteria:

Job Role: Operational Delivery
Organisation: Animal and Plant Health Agency

Click the 'Show more' to expand the job search criteria 

Job Grade: Executive Officer

Or enter the below reference numbers:

Southern Region: Berkshire x 1 post and Buckinghamshire x 1 post, job reference No. 1486500;
Wales: North Pembrokeshire or South Ceredigion x 1 post; job reference No. 1486487;
Eastern Region: South Cambridgeshire or West Suffolk x 1 post; job reference No. 1486491;
Western Region: Shropshire x 1 post and Staffordshire x 1 post; job reference No. 1486497;
Northern Region: Cumbria (Kendal/ Kirby Lonsdale area) x 1 post; job reference No 1486507;
South East Region: Greater London x 1 post and East or West Sussex x 1 post; job reference No 1486505.

If you have any questions about the vacancy, please contact the relevant Regional Bee Inspector, except for the Northern post where you should contact the National Bee Inspector, Andy Wattam.

The deadline for all applications is the 5th April. Any applications received after this date will not be considered.

February 2016 - BeeBase Map Error in Beekeeper Pages

Please be aware that Fera are experiencing intermittent problems with their map server.

Consequently the beekeeper pages of BeeBase are occasionally displaying a message 'Sorry we don't have enough information about you or this apiary to provide you with a map.'

If you see this error message please note that it is only temporary and is under investigation.

Many thanks for your patience whilst this is repaired.

February 2016 - National Hive Count

The NBU are asking for your help in updating your BeeBase records of the number of overwintering beehives as of 1st November 2015.

Please update your records by 12th February 2016. We are asking you to do this as part of a pilot study for an annual National Beehive Count which we will launch from the winter of 2016 onwards. The National Beehive Count is aimed at improving our understanding of our honey bee population – how many there are and how healthy they are. This fits in with the aims of pollinator and bee health strategies across the UK.

The information we gather will also be used by the EU Commission to assess the size of honeybee populations across the EU. The EU provides financial aid to Member States in support of their beekeeping sectors. We are required to submit estimates on the numbers of beekeepers and beehives in the UK in order to continue to receive our share of funding from the EU Apiculture Programme from 2020 onwards.

More details of this project, its importance and why we need your help can be found on the Hive Count Page:

From this page you will have access to the Hive Count FAQ which will outline some of the process you may have to go through in order to update your colony numbers, such as, requesting a new password or login details.

Should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,

National Bee Unit

January 2016 - Bee Health Senior Scientist Job

Fera Science Ltd is now recruiting for a Senior Scientist in Bee Health within the National Bee Unit.

Visit  for more information and details on how to apply.

January 2016 - New Regional Bee Inspector For National Bee Unit South Eastern England Region

Following the recent promotion of Regional Bee Inspector (RBI) Nigel Semmence to the Post of Contingency Planning and Science Officer at the National Bee Unit, and the movement of RBI Julian Parker to take over managerial responsibility for the Southern England Region, I am pleased to announce that Diane Steele has been appointed as the new RBI for the South East of England which is comprised of Greater London, Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex. (Buckinghamshire has now been moved back to its previous place within Southern Region).

Many beekeepers in the South East of England will know Diane who worked for the last seven years as a Seasonal Bee Inspector in East and West Sussex and also at times in Surrey. She lives in Middleton On Sea near Bognor Regis and in addition to Beekeeping enjoys Travelling, Yoga, Gardening and is also a keen photographer.

Diane’s training for the role commenced in Early January 2016 as part of an ongoing development programme.

December 2015 - BeeBase Downtime

BeeBase will be undergoing planned essential maintenance during the week commencing 14th December 2015.

This should not affect your use of the website, but should you encounter any problems please contact immediately.

Thank you

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

November 2014 - National Pollinator Strategy: for Bees and Other Pollinators in England

Defra has published their National Pollinator Strategy on the website:

The Strategy is accompanied by a Supporting Document with further details of the plan for the next 10 years. The Strategy is iterative and will develop over time as new evidence emerges from on-going research. The hope is that the Strategy will be a framework for action by many different businesses, groups and organisations as one of the key elements to the Strategy is working in partnership with others to achieve better habitats for pollinators.

There is also a published summary of responses to the consultation document on the website

Detailed advice and case studies

At the same time Defra has published a set of information sheets for land managers (gardens, agriculture, industrial and post-industrial land, woodlands and transport corridors) and a set of case studies which provide information on how various businesses, organisations and community groups are already taking action to provide pollinators with the resources they need. These will be available at

If you have any queries on the Strategy please let Defra know via

December 2013 - Starvation Warning.

Beekeepers should remain vigilant throughout the winter and check the weight of their colonies. The mild weather conditions may have caused some colonies to remain quite active, consuming more winter stores than usual. As a result, there may be a risk that colonies will be running low on food stocks and so should be fed with bakers fondant (2.5kg/ colony). Wrap the fondant in plastic film (alternatively, mini plastic bags used to store loose fruit from the supermarket are perfectly acceptable and cost nothing). Monitor them every 2 weeks to see how much is consumed, feeding more fondant if needed. Make a hole in one side of the plastic and place over the feed-hole on the crown board, turning the crown board round if necessary so that the fondant is above the cluster.

For more information please refer to Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Feeding Bees - Sugar’ and check the emergency feeding section. The leaflet can be found from the following link:

August 2013 - Have you seen this invader?

The Asian hornet is a large wasp which is poised to invade Britain. If it gains a foothold it will be bad for honey bees, native insects and pose a threat to human health. August and September are the months when it is most likely to be seen. It is relatively easy to identify and also makes large distinctive nests (often high up in trees). The Government takes this issue seriously and has drawn up a plan to try to eradicate this species before it can establish in Britain. To do this, we need to find out immediately if it is spotted in this country. If you think you have seen this species please report your sighting straight away via the Alert system:

Alert Poster:

ID sheet:

Information sheet:

Asian Hornet Information page:

June 2013 - Scottish Bee Health Survey Published

The results of the first Scottish bee health survey have been published. The survey, commissioned by the Scottish Government, was designed to assess the health status of honey bees in Scotland and gain a better understanding of how factors such as husbandry and disease affect them.

Click here to view the findings.

April 2013 - Pollen Substitute Feed.

Following our post about bee starvation and what looks to be another few weeks of terrible weather, it is advisable to start thinking about feeding your colonies some form of pollen substitute. By now the winter bees will have started to die off and the production of brood to replace these loses are important. However, without suitable protein and nectar, the development of brood will be damaged and in some instances may not happen at all.

It is always better to source a pollen substitute from a commercial/ equipment supplier because the consistency of the product will always be assured and they are specifically designed to help boost a colony. However, if you cannot source a pollen substitute it can be made up by mixing 3 parts (by weight) soybean flour, 1 part dried brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and 1 part dry skimmed milk. Prepare a solution of 2 parts by volume of sugar to 1 part hot water.

Let the solution cool and mix one litre of this solution with 400 grams of the substitute. Form it into a cake and wrap in grease proof paper, if necessary they can be stored in a freezer. When using cut a small hole in the paper and place the package hole side down on the top bars over the cluster and preferably over open brood. The bees will tear the paper away and feed on the cake. It is important that the cake remains moist or bees will ignore it, so maintain the paper cover over the top or wrap it in several layers of cling film and pierce a hole big enough for the bees to get in and feed on it.

The amount fed is variable depending on the strength of the colony and external conditions. A small colony on three frames may only need 50 grams a week whilst a very strong colony may require more.

Maintain feeding substitutes until there is an adequate natural pollen crop as it may be detrimental to the colonies development to stop beforehand. This is because brood food production may be affected leading to the starvation of larvae.

Remember homemade pollen substitutes can be very variable in nutritional value due to the different ingredient brands. Generally it is better to obtain a commercial honeybee pollen substitute as the quality is assured.

Pollen substitutes must not be used if the colony is starving because it is more important to get feed into the colony rather than protein. One your hives have suitable food stores, you may then place a pollen pate on the top bars, if there isn’t already a natural source coming in.

Finally it is also worth noting that in some parts of the country, bees are still reluctant to take liquid syrup but will use invert syrups such as ambrosia. If you find that your bees are taking neither then stick to fondant until the weather warms up.

April 2013 - Early Detection of the Asian Hornet.

Beekeepers please remember that this is the time of year at which exotic species of predatory hornets will begin to emerge from hibernation and establish new colonies. The Asian hornet, Vespa velutina has increased it’s range in continental Europe and continues to pose a threat of arrival and potential establishment in the UK and we therefore need to keep it out. The message from the NBU is as follows:

• Monitoring for arrival of mated queens is strongly encouraged (NB. Southern coastal counties of England).

• Consider hanging hornet traps (See attached sheet about A simple monitoring trap for the Asian hornet).

• Key message from NBU – Spring trapping works; at this time of the year, the queen hornet will be flying about in search of sugary substances to raise her energy levels after hibernation.

• Know how to recognise Asian hornets (See attached file . How to idendtify Asian hornets).

• Know where to report sightings:

• Register on BeeBase.

March 2013 - Starvation Risk from Cold Weather

March 2013 Starvation Risk. Important Information about Colony Food Levels.

With the continued poor weather looking to persist through to the end of March, colonies may be starting to run out of food (if they haven’t already). It would be advisable to check the food levels by opening the hive and making a very quick observation on their store levels. Key points to remember are:

• The colony may still have stores available which are at the other end of the brood chamber to the cluster of bees. If there are ‘empty’ frames between the two then the bees could still starve, despite food being in the chamber. Move the frames of food directly next to the outer frame where the cluster resides, ensuring that you score each frame of food (not excessively, but enough to stimulate feeding). Be sure not to knock or roll the bees when doing this and to be as quick as possible.

• If the colony has little or no frames of food then give them a block of candy or fondant. You want to aim for about 2.5 kg per hive and although this may seem to be a great expense, it is far less than the money you will have wasted should the bees die.

• Mini plastic bags that are used to store loose fruit in from the supermarket are perfectly acceptable for holding the fondant and cost nothing. Pack the candy in the bag and then pierce holes in the appropriate place once you get to the hive. If the bag seems fragile then you can double bag it (just be sure to pierce both bags).

• At this time of the year we would usually start feeding sugar syrup but with these temperatures it is still too cold. Place the fondant directly above the bees, turning the crownboard if necessary so that one of the porter bee escape holes is above the cluster.

Please be aware that this should be done as quickly and carefully as possible and although it may seem too cold to open the hive now, it is far better to do so knowing the bees are ok than not to and find later that they have died.

For more information please refer to Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Emergency Feeding’.

March 2013 - BeeBase Downtime

Due to planned maintenance of Fera's websites, BeeBase will be unavailable for a period of time during the weekend of 9th - 10th March 2013.

Normal service will be resumed from the morning of Monday 11th March 2013.

February 2013 - Appointment of New Regional Bee Inspector for South West England Region

The National Bee Unit is pleased to announce that following interviews and testing of candidates at Sand Hutton, Mr Simon Jones has been appointed as Regional Bee Inspector (RBI) for the National Bee Unit's South Western England Region which covers the counties of Avon, Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and the Isles of Scilly.

Simon will replace Adam Vevers who has decided to take partial retirement although he will continue to work as a Seasonal Bee Inspector in Devon. Adam has been the Regional Bee Inspector for South Western England Region since 2006.

Simon’s handover and training with Andy Wattam – National Bee Inspector will commence on the 1st March 2013 with him taking over the management of the Region and its team of Seasonal Bee Inspectors from the 1st April 2013.

Simon lives in the village of Creech St Michael near Taunton in Somerset and has been a beekeeper for 26 years - much of that time spent keeping bees on a semi-commercial basis. He has worked as a Seasonal Bee Inspector in Eastern Somerset since 2009 and will be well known to many beekeepers in that area. As well as enjoying the practical side of beekeeping - Simon has also studied the BBKA modules becoming a Master Beekeeper in 2007 and he also attained the National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB) in 2011. In addition to his own beekeeping Simon enjoys walking, cycling and growing his own fruit and vegetables.

Commenting on the appointment Simon said: "In my new post, I look forward to working with all of the beekeepers in the South Western England Region and continuing the excellent work done by Adam Vevers."

January 2013 - Improving Honey Bee Health - Proposed changes to managing and controlling pests and diseases

DEFRA has launched a public consultation on bee health following a review of its current policies on managing honey bee pests and diseases.

The review was undertaken by Defra and the Welsh Government, with the participation of representatives from commercial and amateur beekeeper associations, the Fera National Bee Unit, Fera Scientists and Economists and an independent scientist. 

The consultation is seeking views on the proposals which emerged from the review.

The closing date for this consultation is the 9th March 2013.

For further information and how to respond, please click here: Improving honey bee health

To view the 'Boost for bee health' press release click here

October 2012 - Person Posing as Bee Inspector (Nottinghamshire)

We have received reports that a gentleman in his mid-fifties and claiming to be a Bee Inspector recently attempted to gain access to an out apiary in Nottinghamshire.

We would like to remind beekeepers that the Seasonal Bee Inspectors have now finished for the year and all contact with the Inspectorate until 1st April 2013 should be through the NBU office, National Bee Inspector or Regional Bee Inspector - see contacts page on BeeBase for details.

All Authorised Bee Inspectors carry photographic i.d. from the NBU and beekeepers and land owners should ask to see this if there is any doubt. The Inspector would not normally approach the landowner of an out apiary to inspect the bees unless the beekeeper couldn’t be traced and the apiary was in a disease risk area.

June 2012 - New publication in Science on Varroa and its influence on honey bee viruses

Researchers in Hawaii and the UK have reported that Varroa destructor, the parasitic mite of honey bees causes a honey bee virus called Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) to become more virulent within colonies, and may be contributing to the world-wide loss of millions of honey bee colonies.

The recent arrival and spread of the mite in Hawaii offered a unique opportunity during 2009 and 2010 to study the evolutionary change in the honey bee viruses. Researchers from Sheffield University, the Marine Biological Association, the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and the University of Hawaii at Manoa showed how the Varroa mite caused a massive reduction in the numbers of different strains of DWV, until there was only one extremely virulent strain. The prevalence of this virulent strain increases from around 10% in Varroa free areas up to 100% in areas where Varroa is established.

The Varroa mite facilitates the spread of viruses by acting as a viral reservoir and incubator. It feeds on honey bees and their larvae, feeding on the ‘blood’ [haemolymph] of adult bees and reproducing within the developing brood.  The impact of DWV and honey bee viruses on honey bee colonies is well known.  The mite can spread several different viruses between honey bees and colonies and it is one of the biggest problems faced by today’s beekeepers. The information in the paper clearly shows the importance of monitoring and controlling varroa mite populations in colonies to below damage thresholds.  This has always been the key to successful management of this parasite. For further details please see the FERA National Bee Unit publication Managing Varroa.

Honey bees are very economically important insects, providing over £400million per year in crop pollination services (together with other insect pollinators) and valuable hive products

The publication, "Global honey bee viral landscape altered by a parasitic mite" is published in Science.

June 2012 - Starvation Risk - Important Message About Bee Colony Food Levels

Important Message About Bee Colony Food Levels:

With the continued spell of poor weather in many areas of the UK, 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.

Indications are that this current spell of unsettled weather will continue until the 19th June 2012 at the earliest.

Particularly at Risk:

Areas of special risk are:

  • Bee Colonies where supers of honey have been removed this season.
  • Splits / Artificial Swarms and Nucleus colonies made up this year.
  • Newly collected and hived swarms which have not been fed following 24 hours after hiving.
  • Populous stocks of bees which haven’t swarmed this year and weather has precluded them gathering sufficient food.

What should Beekeepers do Right Now?

  • Firstly - Check all colonies feed levels by ‘hefting the hive’ – lifting the hive from below the floor sufficiently 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 – so if there are empty supers above the brood box with few or no bees in them, then remove them to feed, otherwise the empty super will act as a barrier in some cases to the bees getting 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’: Feeding_Bees_No_7_June_2011

Andy Wattam
National Bee Inspector.
Head of Bee Health Field Inspection Service for England & Wales.

April 2012 - Starvation Risk

With the on-going poor weather, there is a real risk of bee colonies starving. Please check for stores in the colony and if in any doubt feed your bees. You should feed with either a fondant, a thin syrup or frames of honey stores if available.

Further information on feeding bees can be found in Best Practice Guideline No. 7, on the Advisory Leaflets page of BeeBase (click here).

Thank You

April 2012 - Appointment of New Regional Bee Inspector for Western Region, England

From: Andy Wattam – National Bee Inspector

The National Bee Unit is pleased to announce that following interviews and practical testing of candidates at Sand Hutton it has appointed Charles Millar as Regional Bee Inspector (RBI) for the Western Region, this is with effect from 1 May 2012. The Western Region covers the English counties of: Avon, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire

Charles has been a Seasonal Bee Inspector in Western Region since 2009, covering Shropshire and Herefordshire and will take over from David Bonner who has been Acting Regional Bee Inspector since the retirement of David Sutton in 2011. David Bonner remains as Seasonal Bee Inspector for Leicestershire and Rutland. Between now and 1 June 2012 there will be a training, handing-over and transition period between David and Charles, alongside the National Bee Inspector Andy Wattam.

Charles hails from Glasgow and now lives in Church Stretton in Shropshire. He is a qualified accountant, and has worked in various roles in industry and commerce, including several years at Unilever, and at Coopers and Lybrand as a management consultant. Charles is married with three teenage children, and enjoys singing, cookery and DIY – in addition to caring for his own 20 colonies of bees.

Commenting on his appointment Charles said: “This is an exciting time for beekeepers and beekeeping, as the craft continues to enjoy a very high profile, while the challenges posed by diseases and pests are if anything increasing. I look forward to working with beekeepers, and with beekeeping associations and organisations, in the Western England Region to deliver the objectives of the Healthy Bees Plan, continuing the excellent work done by David Bonner and David Sutton.”

April 2012 - Vita (Europe) Ltd Assigns Funds to Develop Varroa Research

Vita (Europe) Ltd has assigned funds to progress the Varroa research already carried out by the University of Aberdeen and the National Bee Unit, part of the Food and Environment Research Agency, into ‘knock down’ genes in the parasitic mite.

Vita (Europe) Ltd Press Release

April 2012 - Response Plan for Dealing with the Asian Hornet Produced

Developed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Bee Health Policy and the NBU), in consultation with Defra (Non Native Species Policy, and its Non Native Species Secretariat), the Response Plan was finalised in April 2012.

Its objectives are: Early detection, interception and prevention of establishment, nest destruction to eradicate localised outbreaks (if within a limited geographical area or areas), development of longer term management plans where eradication is no longer possible due to the extent and number of outbreaks, provision of advice to beekeepers and all other stakeholders.

Please visit the Asian hornet pages to read updated guidance for beekeepers, including information on early monitoring and trap design. You can also access the full Response Plan through these pages.

March 2012 - Best Practice Guidance for the Sale of Honey Bee Nuclei

Fera has recently worked with bee suppliers to develop and agree best practice guidance for the sale of honey bee nuclei. The overall aim of the guidance is to reduce potential disease risks arising from these sales. A copy of this guidance is available below.

Sale of Honey Bee Nuclei Factsheet

March 2012 - Spring Checks

As the season starts and the bees become active again it is important for beekeepers to carry out their first spring checks, with the aim of seeing how the colonies have overwintered and prepare them for the coming season.

This Best Practise Guideline, 'Spring Checks', provides guidance for beekeepers carrying out these checks.

For further Advisory Leaflets and Best Practise Guidelines click here

March 2012 - Change in Disease Alert Notifications

Following feedback, the radius of disease alert notification emails has been reduced from 5km to 3km.

This change is effective as of 11th January 2012, but will only become relevant once a new case of disease is found within 3km of your apiaries.

December 2011 - NBU - End of Year Report

As the end of 2011 approaches, the National Bee Unit would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Please see attached, for the 2011 End of Year Report

October 2011 - New PhD Studentship, Fera National Bee Unit and the University of York: The epidemiology of Paenibacillus larvae, causative organism of American foul brood

We are very pleased that Barbara Morrissey has been awarded a BBSRC CASE studentship with industrial funding from Bee Disease Insurance Ltd (BDI) in order to study the Epidemiology of American Foulbrood (AFB). She will be jointly supervised by Dr. Giles Budge in Fera's National Bee Unit and Dr. Thorunn Helgason at the Department of Biology at the University of York.  Barbara has already worked on molecular tools to identify strains of Paenibacillus larvae as part of her MRes at the University of York. This grounding will serve her well as she progresses into her PhD. Once strain types have been identified she will be able to link and track disease outbreaks leading to a better understanding of the spread and impact of this damaging bacterium.

October 2011 - New PhD Studentship, Fera National Bee Unit and the University of Exeter

The National Bee Unit is delighted that Ben Jones, who has worked at the NBU for five years has just started a PhD. He will be studying the effects of dietary pollen on the health and behaviour of honey bees. Ben will be jointly surpervised by Dr Giles Budge, the National Bee Unit's research coordinator and Dr James Cresswell at the University of Exeter.

September 2011 - AFB confirmation in Inverness, Scotland

Please see the below press release issued by the Scottish Government following the confirmation of American Foulbrood in Inverness.

Press Release - AFB Outbreak, September 2011

Beekeepers are urged to check their hives and notify any suspicion of disease to

September 2011 - Advice Note from Andy Wattam - Keeping Bees Well Fed

Please see the following advice note from National Bee Inspector Andy Wattam stressing the importance of keeping bees well fed.

Advice Note - Andy Wattam

Further advice can also be found in on our advisory pages.

August 2011 - Retirement of Regional Bee Inspector David Sutton and interim Management Arrangements for Bee Health Inspectorate for NBU's Western England Region.

The Regional Bee Inspector for Western Region David Sutton retired this week 5th of August 2011.

At present we are not able to advertise, and replace David Sutton on a permanent basis, so David Bonner, who is based in Warwickshire and has worked for the last few years as the Seasonal Bee Inspector for Leicestershire and Rutland, has agreed to become ‘Acting Regional Bee Inspector’ to ensure that there is continuity in the management of the Bee Health Inspection programme within the Western England Region, after David Sutton’s retirement.  This situation will be reviewed during January 2012 at which time it is hoped that the post will be advertised and a permanent replacement recruited to the Western Regional Bee Inspector’s Post.

David Bonners telephone primary contact telephone number is:
07775 119434 until he has had a business telephone line installed, at which time that number will be put onto the contact page of Beebase.

His e-mail address is:

All other contacts for Seasonal Bee Inspectors within the Region remain the same, as do, in the main, their working territories.

National Bee Unit
August 2011 

July 2011 - Second AFB confirmation in Perthshire, Scotland

Please see the below press release issued by the Scottish Government following confirmation of a second American Foulbrood case in Perthshire, Scotland.

Press Release - AFB July 2011

Beekeepers are urged to check their hives and notify any suspicion of disease to

June 2011 - AFB Outbreak - Perthshire, Scotland

Please see the below press release following confirmation of an American Foulbrood outbreak in Perthshire, Scotland.

Press Release - AFB Outbreak June 2011

Beekeepers are urged to check their hives and notify any suspicion of disease to

June 2011 - Advice Note - Wasps

With many beekeepers reporting the presence of large numbers of wasps in apiaries and around their bee hives, please see the following advice note for dealing with Wasps.

Advice Note - Wasps

June 2011 - Advice Note - Feeding Bees

With the recent weather we have been experiencing, please see the following note for advice on keeping your bees well fed.

Advice Note - Feeding Bees

More detailed guidance is also available in our Best Practice Guidelines.

February 2011 - Contingency Plans

Please follow the link to download our proposed action in the event of an introduction into England or Wales of an exotic pest or disease of honey bees.

Contingency plan 2012

Small Hive Beetle - what you need to know

February 2011 - Solutions Magazine

The third issue of The Food and Environment Research Agency's new partner and customer newsletter - Solutions is available to download now.

Please use the following link to download the current edition of  Solutions

February 2011 - Updated Managing Varroa and Small Hive Beetle Leaflets

Please find below the recently updated Managing Varroa leaflet as well as the new Small Hive Beetle leaflet which has a few small amendments.

Managing Varroa

Small Hive Beetle

January 2011 - Varroa Mite Project : Collaboration between The National Bee Unit and Aberdeen University Scientists

The National Bee Unit and Aberdeen University have been collaborating on a potential new way to combat the varroa parasite in bees.

For further information please click on the links below.

Press release

BBC news item

Varroa (RNAi) Q&A

October 2010 - Updated Small Hive Beetle leaflet available in Pdf (13/10/2010) and the latest information on the outbreak in Hawaii

Small Hive Beetle has been confirmed on the large island of Hawaii by the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture.

Until further notice APHIS (The US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) will not be issuing export health certificates for honey bees. A report of the Hawaiian apiary surveys is available on the OIE web site.

Please see the letters from the EU Commission for further details of this outbreak. The Commission is reviewing the derogation granted to the State of Hawaii to export bees to the EU.

Letter 1
Letter 2

June 28th 2010: The EU Commission has now suspended the derogation granted to the
State of Hawaii.

Imports into England and Wales:
All imports that have been received from Hawaii in 2010, have been checked and found to be clear.

Updated leaflet
The Small Hive Beetle is a statutory notifiable pest under UK and EU legislation, for further details please see the BeeBase advisory page and the new Small Hive Beetle brochure.

Bee Inspectors will be carrying out post-import inspections of a proportion of the apiaries in which colonies are headed by Hawaiian queens as a priority.

A summary of the risks to UK apiculture is available to read here. Situation Update 28th May 2010
Please see the USDA report of the Small hive beetle investigations in Hawaii.

27th September 2010: The EU Commission has now amended the Regulation which removes the derogation for Hawaii. To view the amendments, click here: Commission Regulation 810-2010

As more information becomes available we will update this news item.

October 2010 - Preparing honey bee colonies for winter

As we approach the end of the summer season the National Bee Unit has created an advisory document: Preparing honey bee colonies for winter 

We hope that this is of use to you as a beekeeper and the document will also be available on the BeeBase 'Advisory Leaflets' page for future reference.

Please send us your comments, as feedback is most welcome.

October 2010 - Government announces support for backgarden beekeepers

The government has today announced that 400 experts across England and Wales are to be trained to teach beekeepers good husbandry as part of a new project under the Government’s Healthy Bees Plan. It will be run in partnership by the British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) and National Diploma of Beekeeping Board (NDBB), and jointly funded by Defra.

For more information please see the document below.

Press Release

Or visit Downing Street's website, the official site of the Prime Minister's Office

October 2010 - 2009/10 Bee Husbandry Survey

We are once again conducting a national survey to obtain information on current honey bee husbandry practices. This is now the second year that we have carried out this survey and we intend to gather this data regularly to allow the monitoring of  trends in UK beekeeping and to help with beekeeper training. The survey takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete and will be of great value to beekeeping in the UK.We hope to get the best possible results out of this survey and to make this the most comprehensive survey of beekeeping practices ever completed in the UK. All your answers are strictly confidential and will only be used for the purposes of this study.

Please use the following link to complete the 2009/10 Bee Husbandry Survey.
Bee Husbandry Survey

Thank you to those who take the time to complete this survey.


September 2010 - Bee Part Of It

The National Trust, jointly with BBC Local, have this year launched the 'Bee Part Of It' campaign.

The National Bee Unit, its inspectors and York staff have been assisting with various parts of this project, including BBC Radio and Television interviews across the country and providing advice and assistance on aspects of beekeeping.

A list of NBU contributions are as follows:

* NBU on The Politics Show for Yorkshire & Lincolnshire - available on BBC iPlayer here until Sunday 25th July 2010
* Ivor Flatman's report on his inspection at the National Trust's Longshaw Estate - available on BBC Local here
* Keith Morgan's inspection of a local Bee Farmer on BBC Look East
* NBU feature in BBC Look North news segment, a summary of which is available here
* Andy Wattam interviewed by BBC Radio Lincolnshire, broadcast August 2010, Interview & Images
* NBU on Radio 4 'On Your Farm'

To visit the National Trust 'Bee Part of It' campain page, click here

To see the BBC Press release on the campain, click here

September 2010 - The One Show - the Bees Knees

The National Bee Unit was recently featured on the One Show (Tuesday 7th September) in a segment looking at how bees see in ultraviolet light. 

Click here to go to BBC iPlayer - available until 7:30pm Tuesday 14 Sep 2010

August 2010 - Beekeeping Study

The results from the study that Defra commissioned on beekeeping practices in early 2010 have been analysed and are now available. 

Thank you to everyone who responded. The final report outlining the findings can be read here: A study of Beekeeping Practices in England and Wales 2010 - Summary

July 2010 - Disease Confirmed in Scotland

American Foulbrood found in West Lothian

An outbreak of American Foulbrood (AFB), a disease affecting honeybees, has been found in an apiary in West Lothian, Scotland.

The disease was discovered on July 16 by a Scottish Government Bee Inspector.

A 5km Infected Area has been declared around the apiary, located between Linlithgow and Kirkliston.  The movement of bees and related equipment is prohibited, except under licence from the Scottish Government.

The infected area extends from the Forth in the north to Uphall and Broxburn in the south, and from Linlithgow in the west to between Winchburgh and Kirkliston in the east.  Bee inspectors will be carrying out inspections on apiaries in the area in coming days.

Hives with AFB must be destroyed as this is the most effective known treatment.  There are no risks to public health from AFB and no implications for the quality and safety of honey.

Beekeepers are urged to check their hives and notify any suspicion of disease to

July 2010 - Insect Pollinators Initiative - Funding Announced

Projects worth a total of up to £10M from the Insect Pollinators Initiative have been announced today (22 June 2010), during National Insect Week. These projects will explore the causes and consequences of threats to insect pollinators and ask questions about the decline of honeybees and other pollinating insects over recent years. The aim is to inform the development of mitigation strategies that will ensure that the pollination of agricultural and horticultural crops is protected and biodiversity in natural ecosystems is maintained.

The Insect Pollinators Initiative is a joint initiative from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Natural Environment Research Council, The Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust, and is funded under the auspices of the Living With Environmental Change partnership.

Fera is leading in one project 'Modelling systems for managing bee disease: the epidemiology of European foulbrood' in partnership with Dr Ed Feil at the University of Bath, Professor Stephen Rushton at Newcastle University and Professor Matt Keeling at the University of Warwick, and collaborating with other organisations in two other projects 'Sustainable pollination services for UK crops' lead by Dr Koos Biesmeijer at the University of Leeds and 'Linking agriculture and land use change to pollinator populations' lead by Professor Bill Kunin also at the University of Leeds.

Details of all the successful projects can be found here.

Articles in the press relating to the IPI Initiative can be found here:

June 2010 - BeeBase Welcomes Scottish Beekeepers

We are happy to announce that as of 24th June 2010, Scottish beekeepers can register on BeeBase.

To register please click here.

For more details on the Scottish Government Bee Health Programme, please see here.

Scottish Government Press Release

June 2010 - AFB Infection - analysis of spread and possible risk locations

To see key findings of a recently completed study into the pattern and spread of American Foulbrood (AFB) cases in England and Wales between 1994 and 2009, please click here: AFB Infection - analysis of spread and possible risk locations.

The study also looked for possible risk locations that may be consistently associated with AFB infection over time. This study was undertaken by the Food and Environment Research Agency and Newcastle University and the above Information Note explores the implications for bee health policy and the actions being taken in response to these findings.

June 2010 - Cumbria BKA - Disease Day

Invitation to all Beekeepers in the Scottish Borders and Northern England - Cumbria BKA is holding a Disease Day on Saturday 19 June 2010 at Houghton Village Hall near Carlisle.

To book your place or for more information see our Training Events pages and view the calendar. Alternatively you can visit the Cumbria BKA website.

April 2010 - General Election 2010

With a General Election now called by the Prime Minister, Fera, along with the rest of the Civil Service, moves into a period of restricted communications activity.

This will last until the election has been held and a new Government has been formed. During this time we will continue to carry out essential business, and will respond to any requests for factual information, but most other external communication activities including anything other than minor factual updates to our website, will be on hold.

Further information on the rules that the Ministers and the civil service will be following during this period can be found in the official guidance published by Cabinet Office on their website.

March 2010 - Healthy Bee Day

As part of the Healthy Bee Plan initiative, we are holding a free 'Healthy Bee Day'.

Location: Peterborough Regional College, Cambridgeshire, PE1 4DZ
Date: Sunday 28th March 2010.
Time: 09.30 - 16.30

Contents to include:
    * Bee husbandry
    * Apiary hygiene
    * Routine apiary management
    * Pest & Disease recognition and control

A Workshop on Minimising Colony Losses, will include lectures and breakout sessions and will cover Bee Husbandry, Disease Identification, Varroa Management and Hygiene Issues. Practical actions to minimise losses will be discussed.

For more details or to book a place please contact Eastern Regional Bee Inspector Keith Morgan on 01485 520838 and email or Extension and Learning Officer Ian Homer on 01308 482161 and email

March 2010 - March 2010 - Healthy Bees Plan - Communications Working Group

The role of the Communications Working Group is to develop and implement a jointly owned and coordinated communications strategy to help deliver the policy objectives of the Healthy Bees Plan.

To view the Summary notes from 1st Meeting of the Group, click here Communications Working Group - 1st meeting - 26.10.09

To view the Summary notes from 2nd Meeting of the Group, click here Communications Working Group - 2nd meeting - 14.12.09

March 2010 - Healthy Bees Project Management Board - Minutes from the Meetings

The Board will guide the work by interested parties to deliver the desired outcomes in the Plan ie, more effective management of pests and diseases, improved husbandry standards through a coordinated beekeeper learning programme, effective biosecurity to minimise risks from pests, diseases and undesirable species, sound science and evidence to underpin bee health policy and its implementation, and coordinated communications planning to optimise opportunities to engage effectively with beekeepers.

To view the minutes of the first meeting on 23rd July 2009, click here Minutes of the Healthy Bees Plan Project Management Board 1st Meeting 23.07.09

To view the minutes from the second meeting on 8th September 2009, click here Minutes of the Healthy Bees Plan Project Management Board 2nd Meeting 08.09.09

To view the minutes from the second meeting on 13th October 2009, click here Minutes of the Healthy Bees Plan Project Management Board 3rd Meeting 13.10.09

To view the minutes from the second meeting on 10th December 2009, click here Minutes of the Healthy Bees Plan Project Management Board 4th Meeting 10.12.09

February 2010 - Investigating abnormal colony losses in England and Wales (Defra funded)

Historically colony losses have fluctuated greatly in the UK, with severe weather increasing colony losses. However, the last 9 years have seen a trend of slowly rising colony losses.  The NBU responded by securing funding to investigate all reported abnormal colony losses. For a summary of our findings click here: Colony losses summary 2010

February 2010 - Healthy Bee Day

As part of the Healthy Bee Plan initiative, we are holding a free 'Healthy Bee Day' at Fera, York on Saturday 6th March 2010. For details, click here:  Healthy Bee Day Feb 2010

January 2010 - Healthy Bees Plan - Quarterly Newsletter on progress with implementing the Plan is now available

Please note the 2nd quarterly newsletter on the Healthy Bees Plan is now available. Much has been done since the last newsletter, including the setting up of the working groups for the Science and Evidence and Education and Husbandry workstreams. Also four pilot roadshows are to be held in February and March, details of which are in the newsletter - 2nd Quarterly Newsletter

To view the previous Quarter's Newsletter click here - Healthy Bees Plan - Quarterly Newsletter (October)

January 2010 - BeeBase Wins Award!

BeeBase has won the prestigious Whitehall and Westminster World Civil Service Award for Knowledge Management and Analysis. The team from Fera, one of only three short listed from across the Civil Service, were chosen for their innovative work on BeeBase, the live on-line database used by beekeepers and The National Bee Unit (NBU) to manage valuable data and information on bee health across England and Wales.

Fera is the home of the NBU, which delivers the Bee Health Programmes on behalf of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) in England & Wales.

For more information on the award, click here

To see local press article, click here

January 2010 - Insect Pollination

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Many plants, including crops, depend on insects to transfer pollen between flowers. Maintaining enough insect pollinators is therefore vital for biodiversity and a diverse food supply. Declines in pollinators, particularly in Europe and the USA, have provoked claims of a global pollination crisis. This POSTnote examines the risks of pollinator decline for the UK and explores strategies to provide stable pollination services into the future: Insect Pollination - Jan 2010

For more information on the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology please visit the website: POST

January 2010 - Media and Press Enquiries

All Media or Press enquiries should be made via the Defra Press Office on Tel: 0207 238 6027.
Thank you

January 2010 - Train the Trainer

Clarification on issues being raised by some local beekeeping associations following the recent letter from the Chair of the Healthy Bees Project Management Board to local associations in England and Wales inviting nominations to take up the City and Guilds train the trainer course. This is a key part of the first phase of the husbandry and education programme, as agreed by the Project Management Board; nominated beekeepers will be funded by the Healthy Bees Plan.

1) The Healthy Bees Project Management Board (includes, BFA, WBKA, WAG, NFU and amateur beekeepers) has endorsed this invitation to beekeeping associations in England and Wales, with the aim of improving teaching skills of trainers/beekeeper who train other beekeepers. The main purpose of seeking to improve teaching skills is to make sure that training courses for beekeepers are effective learning sessions (for the sake of bee health). Our focus is on improving the health of bees, building on local associations' educational activities, nothing more sinister than that!

2) There is no intention to require that anyone who trains beekeepers to hold this City and Guilds qualification before they would be 'allowed' to train beekeepers. We are simply trying to improve teaching skills to a recognised national standard in as many trainers of beekeepers as possible, as a first step towards raising beekeeping standards.

3) The invitation letter does mention the Healthy Bees Plan and 'we would expect those who take up this offer to be committed to the Plan's aims and objectives, and ideally to be registered on BeeBase, given its importance as a resource for beekeepers and for diseases control.'  This is of course the ideal situation. We wouldn't want anyone trained under this scheme as part of the Healthy Bees Plan (and funded by the public purse) to be unsupportive of the Plan's aims and objectives and/or of BeeBase. We are not specifically asking for people to 'pledge support' for the Plan and welcome constructive input to its implementation.

January 2010 - Bee Mortality and Bee Surveillance in Europe

Download the scientific report submitted to EFSA: Bee Mortality and Bee Surveillance In Europe

December 2009 - Husbandry Survey

The NBU would like to thank all those who took the time to complete our husbandry survey. In total, we had over 1600 responses, which is a brilliant effort.

The results will be published over the winter, so watch this space!

Thanks again for your time

National Bee Unit

November 2009



Beebase has now made the move to Fera. Please update your bookmarks to:

Thank you

October 2009 - Healthy Bees Plan Implementation Brief

This Brief has been developed and agreed by the Project Management Board for the purpose of defining the implementation project for the Healthy Bees Plan. It forms the basis for managing and delivering the detailed work of implementation and assessment of its success. It will act as a source document against which Defra, WAG, Fera and stakeholders can review priorities and assess progress on delivery.

To view the Healthy Bees Plan Implementation Brief, click here Healthy Bees Plan Implementation Brief

October 2009 - Letter from Adrian Belton, Fera CEO, to the British Beekeepers Association

To view the letter from Adrian Belton, Fera CEO, to the British Beekeepers Association in response to their withdrawal from the Healthy Bees Plan Project Management Board, click here Letter to Tim Lovett

October 2009 - Letter from BBKA President Tim Lovett to Fera's CEO

To view the letter from British Beekeepers Association President Tim Lovett to Adrian Belton, Fera's Chief Executive, regarding BBKA withdrawal from the Healthy Bees Plan Project Management Board, click here BBKA Letter to Adrian Belton 9th Sept 09

September 2009 - Letter from Fera CEO to beekeeping associations

To view the letter, click here Letter from Fera CEO to beekeeping associations

August 2009 - Online varroa calculator

To use the varroa calculator, click here.

August 2009 - National Bee Unit survey to assess health status of apiaries in England and Wales

A comprehensive apiary survey is underway to answer the followiing question. "What is the prevalence of bee pests and diseases in England and Wales?" Details are included in the document below.

Random Apiary Survey

This work links into the ten year Healthy Bees plan to Protect and Improve the Health of honey bees in England and Wales.

Ten Year Plan

Letter to beekeepers

July 2009 - PhD: Epidemiology of European Foulbrood Disease of Honeybees using Molecular Tools

Ed Haynes who recently completed a Biological Sciences degree at Oxford will be starting this PhD in the autumn of 2009. Please find more details on this BBSRC-CASE studenship jointly between Bee Disease Insurance (BDI), the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and the Department of Biology at York University.

June 2009 - Appointment of new National Bee Inspector

The National Bee Unit has recently appointed Andy Wattam as National Bee Inspector with overall managerial responsibility for the Field Operations Work of the NBU’s Bee Health Inspection and Advisory Service. He has been Regional Bee Inspector for the Eastern England Region since 2005, and prior to that was a Seasonal Bee Inspector in Leicestershire & Rutland. Andy will take over from Richard Ball who is retiring from the post. Between now and the 1st July 2009 there will be a handing-over and transition period between Richard and Andy.   Andy who is 39 was born into a farming family in the Charnwood Forest area of North West Leicestershire, and now lives in Lincolnshire with his wife Jane and Labrador ‘Digby’. Prior to joining the National Bee Unit, Andy had worked for over seventeen years with Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, latterly working in a senior management position. He holds a Post Graduate Management Qualification and is a member of the Chartered Management Institute. In his spare time Andy enjoys spending time with his family, the countryside, gardening, D.I.Y and is a keen pianist, and of course working with his own 40 colonies of Bees.   Commenting on his appointment Andy said; “This is an exciting time for beekeepers and beekeeping and I look forward as the National Bee Inspector to continuing the excellent work which has been done by Richard Ball, working with the whole of the integrated National Bee Unit and its established team of Regional and Seasonal Bee Inspectors and with Beekeeping Associations and Organisations, to achieve our joint aims and plans for Bee Health & Husbandry”

April 2009 - Bee health programme

Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently announced new resources for the Bee Health Programme to fund the implementation of the Healthy Bees Plan.
For more information please see the link below to the Defra website.

March 2009 - Eastern Associations Research Studentship

A new route to PhD funding has been tapped by the University of Sheffield in collaboration with The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) National Bee Unit and beekeepers in Eastern region.

The PhD will be looking at the chemical recognition pathways between the Varroa mite and the honey bee. It will also include work looking at how viruses may affect these pathways and how Varroa may have changed the honey bee virus landscape in the UK.

Dr Giles Budge, research coordinator of the National Bee Unit is a supervisor in the project, adding value to the studentship and helping Dr Stephen Martin at Sheffield with the science. FERA  will be hosting the student to assist with their studies, and in particular with sample collection and molecular characterisation of viruses.

March 2009 - Pathogen Screening Results now available

The results of pathogen screening of samples collected and submitted to the laboratory in 2008 are now available on BeeBase. Beekeepers can log in to BeeBase to see the results of any samples taken from their own apiaries.

January 2009 - EFSA initiates pan-European research project on bee decline

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has commissioned a research project to a consortium of European scientific institutes which includes the Central Science Laboratory National Bee Unit to study the causes of increased losses of honey bees in Europe. For more details see the link below

January 2009 - Small Hive beetle outbreak: Quebec, Canada

The liink below is a summary reports for a recent outbreak of the small hive beetle in Quebec Canada.

January 2009 - Ragwort and injurious weeds

Under the Weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State may serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of land on which injurious weeds are growing, requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the spread of injurious weeds. The Weeds Act specifies five injurious weeds: Common Ragwort, Spear Thistle, Creeping of Field Thistle, Broad leaved Dock and Curled Dock. Defra works with individuals and a wide range of rural organisations to control the spread of these five weeds. For more information please see here.

Food Standards Agency Commissioned Research project

A summary of a research project T01037: Collection and analysis of honey samples potentially contaminated with pyrrolizidine alkaloids from ragwort and borage and assessment of the stability of these compounds during storage of honey has been published on the Food Standards Agency website.

October 2008 - No risks to bees from using refined sugar

We are aware that concern has been raised about the possible effects of residues
of neonicotinoid pesticides in the sugar used to feed our bees.
As one of the ways we feed our own 100+ colonies at the NBU is with sugar syrup
by the ton made up from refined UK-grown sugar, we have contacted British Sugar
to clarify the position. British Sugar has confirmed that UK sugar beet is not sprayed
with any neonicotinoid pesticide and none are approved for such use.
Although Neonicotinoid pesticides are approved for use in the protective seed coating
used to aid plant germination and early growth, the coating degrades naturally in the soil
and the beet plant, and is inactive by May when the plant becomes established.
Home produced sugar is subject to a comprehensive residue testing programme and
no neonicotinoid pesticides have been detected in British sugar.
Home produced beet sugar poses no risk to bees and the NBU will continue to use
refined UK grown beet sugar to feed our colonies and hope that this will allay
beekeepers’ concerns. It is important that beekeepers ensure that their colonies have
enough food reserves for the winter particulary with the second poor beekeeping season on the trot. Feeding sugar syrup is a very effective and safe method.  There is an article on feeding bees well wroth the read in the September 2008 issue of Bee Craft.

NBU October 2008

September 2008 - National Audit Office- Bee Health Survey

<a href="" title="National Audit Office Bee Health Programme Survey">
The National Audit Office is undertaking a Value for Money study into how the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is working to safeguard the health of honeybees in the United Kingdom.

So the NAO can take into account the views and experiences of beekeepers in England and Wales (where the Defra-sponsored National Bee Unit operates) they are asking beekeepers to complete a short survey.

The survey should take around 15 minutes to complete.

All surveys should be completed by 5 September 2008.

Please Note: All information received will be used solely for the purpose of informing the NAO study and will not be passed on to third parties.

Please use the link below to complete this survey.

National Audit Office Bee Health Survey

June 2008 - Countryfile: Additional information on colony losses and Varroa control

For more information on the causes of colony losses in England and Wales in 2007, click here Colony loss R&D 2007

For more information on how to control Varroa, click here Varroa info

June 2008 - Yorkshire Post Article

Follow this link to see a Yorkshire Post article and film about current threats to honey bee colonies including Varroa and Nosema ceranae.

June 2008 - Bee Health Strategy Consultation Notice

Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government have today (23/04/2008) launched a joint consultation strategy to improve and protect honey bee health.

For more information please see the link below:

DEFRA and WAG Bee Health Strategy Consultation

Please see the below link for an additional information note on the recently released Bee Health Strategy Consultation Document. (added on 15/05/2008).

Information Note

May 2008 - Current research project summaries

Please click on the adjacent link for information on each of the below topics.

Assessing the Effectiveness of 'Shook Swarm' as a
Husbandry Method for the Control of European Foul
Brood in the UK: 1st Year Summary Document 1

Research on the Small Hive Beetle, Aethina tumida at
the Central Science Laboratory Document 2

Investigating Abnormal Colony Losses in the UK Colony losses 2007

Nosema: The Current Situation Document 4

Investigating the Taxonomy of UK Honey Bee Viruses:
A Molecular Approach Document 5

Paenibacillus larvae, Honey Bee Pathogen:
What We Know So Far Document 6

May 2008 - National Diploma in Beekeeping

The National Bee unit will be hosting and delivering training for the advanced National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB) course in early July. Queen rearing and colony management will be major features of the week long course.

Queen Rearing 1
Queen Rearing 2
Queen Rearing 3
Queen Rearing 4
Introducing a queen cell
Photographs copyright Central Science Laboratory.

For more details of the NDB

May 2008 - Research and Development

The links to the current and historical National Bee Unit research and development projects housed on the Defra Science Pages are currently unavailable. We apologise for any inconvenience but if you wish to access this information it is available through the Defra web pages via the link below. [Just put the search term or project number (eg PH0502) into the box]

Research and Development Search Pages

January 2008 - Horizon Scanning Project

Horizon Scanning Project Investigation into abnormal colony losses in England and Wales

Honeybees are a vital component of the pollination process of both agricultural and horticultural crops as well as wild flowers and their contribution (Ecosystem services) to maintaining the environment and biodiversity is almost incalculable. Beekeepers across North America and Europe have reported increased, and often sudden losses of honeybee colonies in recent years. The term colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been assigned by US scientists to describe this phenomenon, (Mid Atlantic Apiculture research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC). There are a number of clear signs that are reported to distinguish this disorder from those associated with heavy Varroa infestation. They include the almost complete absence of adult bees with apparently healthy capped brood and stores present in the colony, which are robbed out or consumed by secondary invaders as per the norm. Across Europe Varroa has had the major impact on colony loss but other pathogens, pesticides, bee nutrition, colony management by the beekeeper have also been suggested. In the UK the levels of colony loss have increased since 2001 with the first confirmed cases of Varroa resistance to the highly efficient pyrethroid based medicines used against the mites. As a consequence despite using alternative substances and methods beekeepers are encountering difficulties controlling Varroa and it is still the number one management problem affecting most UK beekeepers.

Under the Department for Environment Rural Affairs (Defra) Horizon Scanning programme (funding designed as the name suggests to investigate phenomena or threats with the potential to arrive in the UK) the CSL National Bee Unit is investigating the causes of the increased colony mortality in England and Wales. So far the NBU has collected over 400 samples from apiaries in England and Wales where significant colony losses have occurred. Samples if available of: adult bees, brood, debris comb wax and debris samples have been collected. These are being screened for a comprehensive range of known pests and pathogens using both molecular methods in the CSL Molecular Technology Unit (MTU) and traditional laboratory diagnostic methods. Samples have also been collected from apparently healthy colonies, which will provide important comparisons. Inspectors have noted colony condition at the time of sampling and have attempted to record details about pest and disease management approaches including Varroa treatments used by the beekeeper. The hive samples will also be screened for a wide range of pesticides and veterinary medicines (N >250) using mass spectrometry. Please get in touch with NBU at York or your NBU Regional Bee Inspector if you are experiencing serious loss of bees in your apiaries. We will provide sampling tubes and instructions. Samples should be sent to the NBU laboratory at York.

This work is not a diagnostic service but a research project and dealing the high level of samples will inevitably take some time. However, as the results from this project come on stream we will endeavour to post summaries on BeeBase so please check the website for details.

CSL National Bee Unit
September 2007

The attached document should be read in conjunction with the above information.
Horizon Scanning Project: Letter to Beekeepers

November 2007 - Nosema ceranae confirmation in England and Wales

Nosema ceranae was confirmed in UK samples in November 2007. Please see the article below for more details.

Bee Craft Article (Published: Jan 2008)

Please Note: The NBU are continuing to screen for Nosema ceranae across England and Wales, therefore details of the known distribution are likely to change as more samples are tested.

September 2007 - Colony Collapse Disorder

Defra, the Welsh Assembly and the CSL are well aware of the serious colony loss affecting many beekeepers in the USA. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD, previously known as Fall Dwindle Disease and by other names) is of increasing concern in the USA, where reports of the disorder have been made from at least 24 states.

It appears to be affecting commercial migratory beekeepers in particular. Signs of CCD appear to be the total collapse of bee colonies, with a complete absence of bees or only a few remaining in the hive. These are not unlike the signs of colony demise associated with heavy varroa infestation sometimes seen in the UK. Bee scientists in the USA are working to find the cause, but while factors such as poor nutrition, disease levels, stress from long distance transport of colonies for pollination of crops, and antibiotic use all seem common features, no specific cause has yet been isolated. Other factors such as pesticide use and toxins found in some plant pollens are being considered, as well as the feeding of High Fructose Corn Syrup and beekeepers’ ability to detect and identify pest and disease problems.

Because of their vital pollination function, the loss of bees in the USA is raising serious concerns about the impact on agricultural and horticultural production, potentially leading once again to the requirement to import package bees from outside the USA, e.g. from Australia, for the pollination of California almonds.

For more details of the disorder and the results of the investigations as and when they are produced please see the direct link from BeeBase to the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) website and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.

MAAREC Website Link

United States Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service Link

August 2007 - Foot and Mouth Outbreak

Due to the Foot and Mouth Outbreak confirmed in Surrey, National Bee Unit Inspectors will not be carrying out inspections on any farms or surrounding farmland until the situation has been resolved.

Statutory apiary inspections in towns and urban areas will continue as normal.

Any beekeepers requiring further information should contact the NBU office on 01904 462510 or their local bee inspector.

May 2007 - Assisting Africa-Dr. Robert Kajobe's CSL Visit

Please see the link below on the work of Dr. Robert Kajobe as he visited CSL for six weeks to look at and learn more about the state of the art molecular analysis techniques used routinely by the National Bee Unit.

Dr. Robert Kajobe

May 2007 - PhD studentship available

Click here to view details of a PhD studentship available at Central Science Laboratory investigating the epidemiology of honeybee viruses.

April 2007 - Varroa in Hawaii

Please see the link below for the most recent press release from the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture regarding varroa in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Department of Agriculture Press Release

March 2007 - Colony Collapse Disorder

Following the recent events in America regarding colony collapse of honey bees, please see the below link for more information:

Mid Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium

March 2007 - Asian Hornet Established in France

Please see the below link regarding recent hornet swarms in France that entomologists fear could reach Britain:

The Telegraph

March 2007 - Final minutes of the annual bee meeting at CSL on 5 December 2006

Following the Annual Bee Meeting held at CSL on 5th December the minutes are now available to view.
Please click here for more details

March 2007 - Public consultation on The Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain

The GB Invasive Non-native Species Framework Strategy is intended to provide a strategic framework within which the actions of government departments, their related bodies and key stakeholders can be better co-ordinated. Its overall aim is to minimise the risks posed, and reduce the negative impacts caused, by invasive non-native species in Great Britain. This draft strategy has been produced by a working group consisting of key stakeholders from industry, Non Governmental Organisations and government. This public consultation is intended to canvass a broad spectrum of views on this large and complex subject.

To view more details please click here

April 2006 - 'Beebase online' goes live

The new web based beekeeper database and information resource 'BeeBase online' went live at the beginning of April 2006. The project, financed under the Defra Challenge fund produced a centralised web based information warehouse and management system on all regulatory aspects of apiculture, including bee health, disease incidence and control. It will include research data, general reports and interactive maps of disease incidence/spread for use across all of the Defra Divisions whose work impinges on bee health and for beekeeping industry stakeholders. Once completed, bee inspectors and beekeepers alike will be able to down load from the site certain levels of information relating to pest and disease control and other areas of the NBU's bee health work. Up to date research findings will also be posted at regular intervals on the website. We would appreciate comments and feedback on how to improve BeeBase. We have already had some good feedback and suggestions so please continue to contact the webmaster with ideas.

March 2006 - Bee Health Policy

New Statutory Instrument

The new Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006 came into force in March 2006 (SI No. 342). Legislation will shortly be introduces in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The legislation implements post imports controls specified in Commission Decision 2003/881/EC, and provides a legislative framework for control of two exotic threats to honey bees, the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) and Tropilaelaps spp. mites. Both are notifiable throughout the European Union. For more details on this legislation, click here.

New Policy Division

From April 2006, bee health policy has a new home in Defra: Plant Health Division, which is based in York. For more information on the range of responsibilities of the division please visit their website by clicking here and here.

December 2004 - New Bee Inspector appointed for Eastern region

The National Bee Unit has recently appointed Andy Wattam as Regional Bee Inspector for its Eastern Region, which covers the counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire. Andy will take up the post from the beginning of February 2005. Andy is 35 and was born into a farming family in the Charnwood Forest area of North West Leicestershire. He now lives in North Eastern Leicestershire with his partner Jane and joins the National Bee Unit team after seventeen years with Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, latterly working in a senior management position. He has a Post Graduate Management Qualification and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management. Andy has also been working as the NBU Seasonal Bee Inspector for Leicestershire and Rutland and has been involved in Beekeeping since his school teacher introduced him to the craft back in 1984. In his spare time Andy enjoys spending time with his family, the countryside, gardening, D.I.Y and is a keen pianist, and of course working with his own colonies of Bees. Commenting on his appointment Andy said;

  • " I am looking forward to the exciting challenge of joining the team at the National Bee Unit and working as the Regional Bee Inspector for Eastern Region, alongside the already established team of locally based Seasonal Bee Inspectors. I hope to forge close links with members of the Apicultural Community within the six counties and to continue, and build upon the excellent work carried out by my predecessor John Blakesley and the National Bee Unit".

October 2004 - Small hive beetle intercepted in consignment of queen bees imported into Portugal from the USA

The small hive beetle (Aethina tumida), commonly known as the SHB is a serious threat to both UK and European Apiculture. The beetle is indigenous to Africa, but has recently spread to the USA and Australia where it has caused serious economic damage to their beekeeping industries.

The SHB has this month been intercepted in an unauthorised consignment of queen bees imported into Portugal from Texas. Positive confirmation was made through laboratory diagnosis at the Border Inspection Post (BIP) on two suspect larvae detected in the queen cages. As an additional precaution the Portuguese Veterinary Authorities took rapid action to isolate the apiaries, destroy all colonies into which the queens were introduced, destroy all associated beekeeeping equipment and treat the soil with an appropriate pesticide.


In 2003, the EC raised the profile of bee health following pressure by Member States, particularly the UK, to counter the serious threat to EU apiculture from two exotic bee pests, the small hive beetle and the Asian bee mites called tropilaelaps. Both pests have since been made notifiable throughout the Community.

Under EU import legislation imports of honeybees from the United States are not permitted into the EU. Details of the legislation can be obtained from the Defra bee health web pages

The National Bee Unit, based at CSL, delivers the bee health programme in England and Wales on behalf of Defra and the Welsh Assembly. The NBU is developing contingency plans and surveillance as part of its emergency preparedness to tackle these new threats.

The advisory leaflets on the small hive beetle can be downloaded here

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