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Who are the National Bee Unit?

Watch our Bees, Beekeepers and the National Bee Unit below to find out more about our vital work.


What is Beebase?

BeeBase is the NBU's award winning website. BeeBase contains all the apicultural information relating to the statutory bee health programme in England and Wales. Most recently, the information for the Scottish inspections programme has also been incorporated into BeeBase. BeeBase contains a wide range of beekeeping information such as the activities of the NBU, the bee related legislation, pests and diseases information including their recognition and control, interactive maps, current research areas, publications, advisory leaflets and key contacts. Beekeepers can sign up online and view their own apiary records, diagnostic histories and details.

Why should I sign up to Beebase?

Beebase is a vital tool in the control of bee diseases and pests, as well as having lots of useful information on bees and beekeeping. Where diseases and pests are confirmed, the NBU use Beebase to identify apiaries that are at risk in the local area, send alerts to individuals and to target inspection and control measures effectively. 

By knowing where bees are, we can help you to manage risks in your apiaries. Risks could include the incursion of serious new pests such as Small Hive Beetle or other invasive species such as the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) which could pose a serious risk to honeybees.

How do I request a new password?

New passwords can be requested by using the Forgot Password? link at the bottom of the Log-in page. You will be asked change the new password to something secure and memorable when you first use it.

I've forgotten my username.

You can request a Username reminder by using the Forgot Username? link at the bottom of the Log-in page.

Who is my local inspector?

Contact details for all of our inspectors can be found on our Contact Us page. You can also search for your local inspector using your postcode


Are bees protected?

Bees are not a protected species in the UK. Bees may not be a protected species, however, this does not mean that they are unimportant. We should value bees and promote their survival. They are vital pollinators of not only commercially important crops but also a myriad of flowering plants in natural and suburban landscapes, key components of both managed and unmanaged ecosystems. 

Protected species are designated by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) 1981.

I have found a swarm of bees, what should I do?

If the swarm is a nuisance and you would like it removed, contact a local swarm co-ordinator. The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) have a list of swarm co-ordinators, visit the Swarm Removal page of their website for more information.

Unwanted nests of honeybees in chimneys and building structures can be carefully removed by pest controllers. Pest controllers will have their own policies regarding removal and/or destruction of nests.

The NBU would only advocate removal or destruction of honeybee swarms when their presence poses an unacceptable nuisance or risk to human health.

Can bees be classified as a nuisance? Is there any legislation regarding the siting of bees and beehives?

Under some circumstances, as a last resort, yes - although there is no specific legislation relating directly to the siting of bees. 

If you have a problem regarding the siting of bees, first advice is for both parties to talk to each other and see if an amicable outcome can be agreed.

If the bees are acting as a nuisance, reasonable actions that could be taken by the beekeeper include moving the bees well away from the boundary or preferably reducing the numbers by moving some to an out apiary (a site well away from dwellings). It is possible for experienced beekeepers to safely manage bees in a garden area, although usual practice is to site them well away from neighbours and fence colonies in with a hedge or panelled fencing - this encourages bees to fly higher, above the heads of anyone nearby.

If after discussion the bees are still causing a problem, there are two potential courses of action:

1) You could approach the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA). The BBKA are there to encourage responsible beekeeping and have produced helpful guidance regarding the siting of bees - Bees, Neighbours and Siting an Apiary. If the beekeeper is a member, the BBKA may be able to act as a mediator.

2) Some local Environmental Health offices have been known to successfully invoke the Environmental Protection Act 1990 Section 79f 'Statutory Nuisances'. This is intended as an absolute last resort. 

The NBU would not normally become directly involved with disputes involving the siting of bees

Diseases and Disorders

If you find a notifiable pest or disease, you are legally required to report this to the National Bee Unit. Please go to our Contact Us page to find details of your local bee inspector. You can also contact the office team by calling 0300 303 0094 or emailing nbu@apha.gov.uk.

Notifiable pest and diseases are European Foulbrood (EFB), American Foulbrood (AFB), Small Hive Beetle, and Tropilaelaps mite.

What is European Foulbrood (EFB) and what are the symptoms?

European Foulbrood is a bacterial infection caused by Melissococcus plutonius, which multiples in the mid-gut of an infected larva. The multiplying bacteria competes with the larva for food, which may cause it to starve.

The biology, symptoms and management of European Foulbrood are described in detail in the advisory leaflet "Foulbrood Disease of Honeybees".

EFB mainly affects unsealed brood. Brood pattern will often appear patchy and erratic where a high proportion of the larvae are killed by EFB and then removed by the bees. An EFB infected larva moves inside of its cell rather than remaining in the usual coiled position expected of a healthy larva of the same age. When the larva dies it lies unnaturally, twisted around the walls, across the mouth of the cell or stretched out lengthways. The dead larva often collapses as though melted, turning yellowish-brown and eventually drying up to form a loosely attached brown scale. The scales are variable in colour, loose within the cell and 'rubbery' - unlike AFB, where remains form hard, black, firmly attached scales.

Contact the National Bee Unit as soon as possible if you think you have European Foulbrood in your colonies.

What are the symptoms of American Foulbrood (AFB)?

The biology, symptoms and management of American Foulbrood are described in detail in the advisory leaflet "Foulbrood Disease of Honeybees". 

AFB generally only affects sealed brood. When infected larvae die within the sealed cell, the appearance of the cell cappings changes. Wax cappings become sunken and perforated when adult bees nibble holes in them to try and remove the infected larva within - these perforations tend to be jagged and irregular in shape. Some cappings may become moist or greasy looking and slightly darker in colour than other cells. 

At first, only a few cells mat show signs of disease and the colony may look otherwise normal. Eventually, much of the sealed brood will become affected by the disease, causing a patchy or 'pepper-pot' brood pattern. There may be an unpleasant smell associated with decomposition. 

At the sunken capping stage, dead larval remains are light to dark brown in colour and have a slimy consistency. If a matchstick is inserted and slowly withdrawn, the remains can be drawn out in a brown, mucus-like thread or 'rope' 10 to 30mm long. This is called the 'ropiness test' and is a reliable test for the presence of AFB. The ropey condition is followed by a tacky stage as the larval remains in the cell dry up and the colour changes to dark brown.

Contact the National Bee Unit as soon as possible if you think you have American Foulbrood in your colonies.

I think I have foulbrood disease in my colonies, what do I do?

Close the hive, reduce the size of the entrance and take any other steps necessary to prevent the hive being robbed by other colonies. Disinfect gloves and other beekeeping equipment with a strong solution of washing soda before examining other colonies. 

If you suspect European foulbrood (EFB) or American foulbrood (AFB), you must contact the National Bee Unit for assistance. Arrange a visit from your local bee inspector or contact the office team.

I have a question about other diseases or brood disorders (chalkbrood, chilled brood, etc).

Visit our Other Bee Diseases and Viruses section for details and advice along with helpful images of other common diseases and brood disorders.


What is an Asian hornet?

The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) is a large wasp that comes from the Far East – China, India and Korea.  It is slightly smaller than our native European hornet.  Please note that it should not be confused with the giant hornet of Japan. You can read more about the Asian hornet, and how to distinguish it from the native European species Vespa crabro, in this leaflet.

If you think that you have seen an Asian hornet or an Asian hornet nest, visit the Asian Hornet report page of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology to report the sighting so it can be investigated further. The Asian Hornet Watch app is a fast, convenient way to report sightings and is available and free to download from the Apple and Android app stores and can be used to log sightings.

The Asian hornet is a voracious predator of honey bees capable of wiping out individual bee hives.  It also can kill a range of native species of insects such as bumble bees, flies and spiders. With our honey bees and other pollinators already under pressure having an additional predator would not be welcome. The full GB Non Native Species Risk Assessment for Vespa velutina, the Asian hornet, can be viewed by by going to this page on their website.

How do I tell an Asian hornet from a native hornet or wasp?

The Asian hornet is slightly smaller than our native hornet but bigger than our wasps.  Worker hornets are up to 2.5cm (1in) long and queens up to 3cm long. It is less orange overall than our hornet and has a distinctive yellow band on its otherwise black abdomen.  Click here (link) to find an ID sheet for the Asian hornet, which explains how to distinguish between the Asian hornet, the European hornet and other native wasp species.  The Bees, Ants and Wasps Recording Society (BWARS link) produces useful Information Leaflets about a variety of Hymenoptera, including European and Asian hornets.

How do I recognise Varroa?

Varroa management is an essential part of contemporary beekeeping, all beekeepers need to make sure that they can recognise Varroa mites in their hives and have at least one method for estimating how serious the infection is.

Female Varroa mites are easily recognised by their flat, reddish-brown oval-shaped bodies. They are 1.6 x 1.1mm in size. Immature female mites and male Varroa mites are smaller and pale in colour, existing only in brood cells. Varroa mites are very small, if you wear glasses for reading you will probably need to wear them to see Varroa. A hand lens can be helpful too.

Mite levels can vary significantly between colonies, so ideally you should monitor all of your colonies.

Visit our pages on Varroa for detailed guidance and images. You can also download a free copy of our "Managing Varroa" leaflet. Your local bee inspector will also be able to give you advice and guidance.