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Home > Diseases – an introduction

Most people are surprised to learn that honey bees can be troubled by a number of diseases and pests, but then they discover that bees have been around for a good few million years so are bound to have smaller organisms trying to hitch a ride – even If the bees die in the process.

Managed colonies of honey bees are food-producing livestock (not pets) so control and management of the most serious (notifiable) bee diseases (AFB and EFB) is covered by statute and falls under the remit of the National Bee Unit (NBU) which is based at York. NBU is within the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), which itself is part of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

All treatments for disease and viruses are regulated by Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), and Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 require beekeepers to keep accurate records of any treatments for a minimum of 5 years.

The whole of the UK is looked after by a network of Regional Bee Inspectors (RBI), who work full time and all year round. They are supported by specialist staff who are also based at York. During the active beekeeping season, which runs from April to the end of September, Seasonal Bee Inspectors (SBI) are on hand in each region to help and advise local beekeepers whose bees have fallen sick.

Being contactable by NBU in the case of an outbreak of either AFB or AFB can be critically important to the health of your bees, so it’s important for all beekeepers to take a few minutes to accurately register their colonies on Beebase. Check them out via the link on our ‘Links’ page.