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The Annual Bee Meeting 2008
Margaret Cowley, MSc
A wide range of concerns for beekeepers was raised at this well-attended event
OVER FIFTY people attended this important meeting of for investigation through the scheme. The information
minds, held this year at Defra (Department for gathered from these investigations helps to ensure that the
regulatory authorities (Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) headquarters in
plant protection products and Heath and Safety ExecutiveWhitehall Place, London, on 9 December.
(HSE) for biocides) can effectively assess and review the
All had a common interest: the welfare of honey bees in the possible risks of pesticide applications to honey bees.
United Kingdom (UK). They were representatives of Ultimately, this may lead to changes in approval conditions
organisations concerned with bee health and honey for the pesticide, or it may highlight areas where further
production from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. research is required.
Under the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, 31 Several organisations reported that they were working on
incidents of suspected honey bee poisonings were draft Honey Bee Health Strategies. This move has been
investigated during 2008 at the Central Science Laboratory welcomed by the beekeeping community and suggestions
(CSL). Five of these incidents proved to be poisoning by for improvements have been made. The concerns include
pesticides. varroa and lack of treatments, habitat loss, inbreeding,
In one incident, a large number of dying and dead foraging systemic pesticides, importations of bees and limited bee
bees was found around a hive. It appears that they had inspections. The Scottish Executive felt that the threat to the
visited a feral nest in a nearby chimney which had been UK’s only remaining populations of the northern European
recently destroyed by application of bendiocarb via an dark bee Apis mellifera mellifera in Scotland, posed by
airbrick. disease (especially varroasis) and through genetic erosion
due to influxes of hybrids, is also a major concern and
Misuse of the pesticide in this way was probably also the requires government action.
cause of at least two other reported incidents. Anyone using
a pesticide to control feral bees, particularly professional Consultation packs and summaries are available on the
users, should refer to the free HSE advice leaflet Feral Defra website (
Honey Bees – points to consider when asked to treat a BEE DEATHS
honey bee nest (
Colony losses had been investigated in several differentAll bee samples submitted from England and Wales have
ways by different associations. Losses over winter variedbeen screened for a range of neonicotinoid pesticides. No
greatly from region to region and from area to area withinresidues have been found. Beekeepers must continue to be
regions. Scotland’s average figure was around 20% which is vigilant and, if they suspect that pesticide poisoning has
only slightly higher than 2007. The survey conducted by the occurred, samples of dead honey bees should be collected
British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) gave an average of
30%. This agrees well with the figure of 31% given by the
National Bee Unit (NBU) for England and with approximately Join the Bee Craft Team
Bee Craft 30% for colony losses worldwide. Vacancy
Following on from winter losses, beekeepers naturally wantDue to expansion, Bee Craft is seeking another
to increase the numbers of colonies they own. This has led
to a big increase in importation of queens and nuclei fromDeputy Editor
countries such as Slovenia. Whilst this seemed a temporary
solution, concerns were raised by several delegates present
You must be computer literate. Experience of typesetting and/or that this might lead to problems, not just with diseases, but
graphic design is desirable, although training will be given. also with ingress of foreign genes. For more information
Beekeeper preferred. about importation of bees visit
Further details from: Andrew Gibb – e-mail:
Page 6 Bee Craft digital January 2009
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