As a precautionary measure, work on the investigation of bee colony losses by the National Bee Unit (NBU), which commenced last year, is being given higher priority.While it is not unusual to see some losses over winter, there are early signs of significant colony losses across the country, which are being investigated. A more complete understanding will emerge in the coming weeks as the NBU’s Bee Inspectors complete their initial inspections.The work of the Bee Inspectors has been reprioritised so that reports received of significant colony loss are actioned as a high priority.
If they carry out the inspection and there is no obvious explanation for the loss, such as poor husbandry or varroa, samples will be sent to the NBU for priority testing and investigation.Beekeepers experiencing significant losses are urged to contact their local Bee Inspector to arrange a visit.As part of its contingency planning work, the NBU is monitoring the situation carefully both here, in the US and elsewhere. The cause of the losses in the US is still to be determined. There is no evidence yet that the losses seen in the UK are mirroring the situation experienced in the US.In 2007, the cases of high loss seen here had two possible
explanations:1. In many cases the spring losses were linked to inadequate management in relation to Varroa or poor husbandry;2. Laboratory investigation of samples collected from dead or dying colonies in the summer, where there was no immediately obvious explanation, indicated high levels of the parasite Nosema spp coupled with virus (particularly chronic bee paralysis virus).The position this year may be different given that the wet weather experienced in summer 2007 meant that bees were confined to their hives for long periods and were therefore unable to forage for sufficient nectar and pollen to sustain them over winter. The poor spring we’ve experienced also extended the bees confinement. This additional stress is likely to have provided the opportunity for pathogen spread, virus levels to build up and Nosema, where it was present, to have a greater impact.