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Honey bees

Honey bees make an important contribution to sustainable agriculture and the environment. The Government recognises the importance of a strong bee health programme in England to protect these benefits and takes very seriously any biosecurity threat to the sustainability of the apiculture sector.

Defra is responsible for the Government's bee health policy in England and in particular, the implementation of the Healthy Bees Plan. Fera's National Bee Unit (NBU) delivers the bee health programme in England and in Wales on behalf of Defra and the Welsh Government.

The aim of the programme is to control the spread of endemic notifiable diseases of honey bees and to identify and manage the risk associated with new exotic pests and diseases that may be introduced. The programme is important in commercial and environmental terms by protecting honey bees needed for pollination of agricultural and horticultural crops, as well as honey production.

National Bee Unit

The Bee Health Inspectorate provides an integrated programme of apiary inspections, diagnostics, research and development and training and advice which are provided by a team of bee scientists and experienced practical beekeepers. The NBU also provides specialist advice and technical consultancy services on bee health to other government departments, beekeepers and industry. For further details of the NBU's functions and activities download the NBU Brochure.

The NBU has a web based database of beekeepers in England and Wales called BeeBase. The primary function of BeeBase is to facilitate efficient risk based statutory pest and disease control and surveillance programmes. It is also an important and powerful tool for disseminating important information to beekeepers, for example, UK and EU legislation, details of pest and disease recognition and control, interactive maps showing current diseases incidence, current research and scientific publications together with items of topical interest.

There are an estimated to be around 40,000 beekeepers in the UK who maintain over 200,000 colonies of honey bees. Of these around 300 are commercial beekeepers managing around 40,000 colonies whilst the remainder are smaller scale beekeepers.


Beekeepers registered on BeeBase can request a free apiary inspection visit from their local Bee Inspector and receive information and advice on disease recognition, control and colony husbandry and apiary management. BeeBase is an important tool in the control of pests and diseases and the chances of success is significantly increased if the location of beekeepers and their apiaries is known.

Many beekeepers have already registered, so if you keep bees and have not yet signed up please do so. Registration is free of charge.

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