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The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) are an executive agency of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). They promote animal health and welfare by assuring the safety, quality and efficacy of veterinary medicines and are responsible for:

  • Monitoring and taking action on reports of bad effects from veterinary medicines;
  • Testing for residues of veterinary medicines or illegal substances in animals and animal products;
  • Assessing applications for and authorising companies to sell veterinary medicines in the UK;
  • Controlling how veterinary medicines are made and distributed;
  • Advising government ministers on developing veterinary medicines policy and putting it into action; and
  • Making, updating and enforcing UK legislation on veterinary medicines.

Apistan treatment being added to hive

Veterinary medicines and honey bees

It is the responsibility of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) to authorise and control the market for all veterinary medicines in the UK. These medicinal products can be used safely. However, it is important that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed to ensure that there are no detrimental effects to the colony and/or the beekeeper. All authorised products have undergone a thorough scientific assessment of data to show that they meet statutory levels of quality, efficacy and safety to the user, bees, consumers of bee products and the environment. A list of the current UK authorised products can be found on the VMD’s product database. To find veterinary medicines relating to bees, filter ‘Bees’ in the ‘Species’ section.

Reporting side effects and product (medicine) failures in bee products

Reporting of any adverse events involving certified products used in bees, including product failure, is crucial to ensuring medicines on the market are safe and effective. You can report any problems with veterinary medicines at gov.uk.


The Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 (VMR), allow beekeepers to apply for alternative authorised Veterinary Medicine Products which are used:

  • To treat a different animal species for similar diseases; or
  • Apply for an authorised medicine used to treat the same disease in the same animal species which is not available in the UK.

Any beekeeper wishing to import a product will have to apply for a Special Import Certificate (SIC) from a veterinary surgeon. Further information can be found on the VMD Cascade page.

Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013

The Veterinary Medicines Regulations sets out legal text on the manufacture, authorisation, marketing, distribution and post-authorisation surveillance of veterinary medicines. Honey bees are classed as a food producing animal and therefore beekeepers must comply with these regulations. Generic substances such as Oxalic acid or self-made thymol solutions should not be used, and beekeepers are liable for prosecution if traces are found during routine honey sampling. It is important to note that some products available on beekeeping manufacturers’ websites are not registered medicinal products and although available, should not be administered to a colony.

Medicine record card

Beekeepers must keep documentation containing details of veterinary medicinal products administered in colonies for at least five years, irrespective of whether or not the colony concerned is no longer in that keeper’s possession or has died during that period.

When a veterinary medicinal product is bought beekeepers must, at the time, record:

  1. The name of the product and the batch number;
  2. The date of acquisition;
  3. The quantity acquired; and
  4. The name and address of the supplier.

When administering the medicine, beekeepers must record on a medicine record card:

  1. The name of the product;
  2. The date of administration;
  3. The quantity administered;
  4. The withdrawal period; and
  5. The identification of the animals treated.

A beekeeper who disposes of any or the entire veterinary medicinal product other than by treating a colony must record:

  1. The date of disposal;
  2. The quantity of product involved; and
  3. How and where it was disposed of.

To do this you should use a medicines record card.

Further reading: