New plans to prevent a declining bee population by protecting hives from pests and diseases has been unveiled today.Defra and the Welsh Government have outlined proposals which will help beekeepers to identify and manage pests such as the potentially devastating Varroa mite, considered the single greatest problem for beekeepers.There are estimated to be up to 44,000 beekeepers in the UK, of which more than 99 per cent are amateurs. A consultation has been published today seeking views from amateur keepers and commercial bee farmers on how best to provide more support to improve honey bee health."Honeybees are an iconic species which are vital to the environment and I want to make sure that we do all we can to safeguard their future" said Animal Welfare minister Lord de Mauley."But these bees are susceptible to pests and diseases and need to be cared for properly to aid their long-term survival, which is why we’re consulting on new measures to help beekeepers and improve bee health."The proposals include increased effort to tackle the management of the Varroa mite, rewarding bee farmers showing good management of their hives and a new welfare code to remind beekeepers of their responsibilities.The new plans have been drawn up by beekeeping experts including representatives from Defra and the Welsh Government, the NBU, the British Beekeepers Association the Bee Farmers Association and the Welsh Beekeepers Association.