DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government have today published ‘HealthyBees’ – a plan to protect and improve the health of honey bees inEngland and Wales.
The ten year plan has been drafted in consultation with beekeeping organisations and aims to sustain honey bee populations by supporting beekeepers and ensuring effective biosecurity measures are adopted to minimise risk from pests and disease.
This follows an investment of an extra £4.3m to gather more information from beekeepers and undertake more research into the health of bees. Of this, £2m will contribute to a new research programme on pollinators, which is being developed.
The last two years have seen recorded losses of between 10 to 15 per cent in bee numbers although it is possible that real losses are significantly higher due to the number of beekeepers not in contact with the National Bee Unit (NBU).
With this in mind, the first stage of the plan will be to identify and contact as many as 20,000 amateur beekeepers to make sure that they are aware of the need to alert the NBU to bee health problems and encourage them to register on its beekeepers database, BeeBase. This will help ensure that any new or existing health problems are identified.
Environment minister Jane Kennedy said: “We need to do all we can to safeguard the health of honey bees. This plan is a blueprint for doing that.
“The first step is to improve our contacts with all beekeepers so that we can ensure they take advantage of the free inspection and diagnostic services that the bee unit and its dedicated team of inspectors and scientists provide. That will help us pick up existing and emerging bee health problems and deal with them effectively.”
The five main aims of the plan are:
- To keep pests, diseases and other hazards to the lowest levels achievable;
- To promote good standards of husbandry to minimise pest and disease risks and contribute to sustaining honey bee populations – prevention is better than cure;
- To encourage effective biosecurity to minimises risk from pests, diseases and undesirable species;
- To ensure that sound science underpins bee health policy and its implementation, and;
- To get everyone to work together on bee health.
The plan also identifies the distinct roles and responsibilities of Government, beekeepers, their associations and other stakeholders in achieving these aims. A strengthened partnership, involving all interested parties, is essential if current and evolving threats to bee health are to be successfully identified and addressed.
Action to implement the plan will now be taken forward in consultation with beekeepers’ representatives.
The strategy will be published online at www.defra.gov.uk/hort/Bees/wnew.htm