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Gov launches 'Healthy Bees' plan

Calling all apiarists...

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Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government today announced a ten-year "Healthy Bees" plan to combat the serious decline in honeybee numbers.

The main thrust of the plan - formulated following a public consultation - is to "sustain honeybee populations by supporting beekeepers to ensure effective biosecurity measures are adopted to minimise risk from pests and disease".

First up on the agenda is to "attempt to identify and make contact with perhaps as many as 20,000 amateur beekeepers" to stress the importance of informing the National Bee Unit (NBU) of any health problems among their bees, and to encourage them to register on the "BeeBase" beekeepers database.

Defra notes: "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 NBU."

Environment Minister Jane Kennedy said: "Bees are just about the most hard working of insects. They help put food on our plates as they produce honey and pollinate other plants, many of which produce food themselves. 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 latest announcement in the escalating battle to protect UK honeybees comes after the government in January provided an extra £4.3m in funding to the cause - £2.3m destined for the NBU over two years. ®

Bootnote

The Healthy Bees plan's overall objectives are:

  1. To keep pests, diseases and other hazards to the lowest levels achievable.
  2. To promote good standards of husbandry to minimise pest and disease risks and contribute to sustaining honey bee populations - prevention is better than cure.
  3. To encourage effective biosecurity to minimise risk from pests, diseases and undesirable species.
  4. To ensure that sound science underpins bee health policy and its implementation.
  5. To get everyone to work together on bee health.

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