Visit from APHA/DEFRA Bee Inspectors

24 July 2021

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During the warm weather we welcomed our local seasonal bee inspector Maggie and the regional bee inspector Francis to the farm. It’s always a pleasure to see them and never a chore. A chance to have a good chat about life as well as bees and beekeeping.

For those who do not know APHA, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which is a sub division of DEFRA, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have inspectors that deal with the health of bee colonies and are responsible for national monitoring and advise on challenges. They pay regular visits to beekeepers of all sizes, whether you have a single colony or a thousand.

Frank inspecting woodland apiary

The set up can be quite strange as within a devolved Wales as we have a minister in charge of Rural Affairs but the bee inspectors as they come under the National Bee Unit in Yorkshire. There is an argument that a centralised unit for bee health may be beneficial, but when the NBU has a role to play in policy decision making, are we bypassing decision makers in Welsh Government? Or even worse just following England’s path, when the challenges can be different here in Wales? We, after all, have different geography and yields tend to be half that across the border due to challenges. But this is also a bonus as it tastes great as we have fewer pesticides and more wildflowers!

The inspectors were friendly as always and, at least here, I hope we have a bit of fun at the same time. Francis, the region bee inspector (RBI) I first met in 2004, so we go back a number of years. Maggie, the seasonal bee inspector we have met a few times over the last 7 or more years (sorry, I cant remember the first year we met!) is always charming and fun. Both are well experienced beekeepers and are a joy to be around. There was only 1 colony in which we had trouble and was highlighted prior, and sadly had to be destroyed after confirmation tests on site. It will be interesting to hear what the lab results will say of its origin.

Frank and Maggie inspection apiary

Some beekeepers have participated in the DASH scheme, a system where bee inspectors no longer visit beekeepers but rely on a few days course at the NBU (National Bee Unit). I must stress this is only available to larger commercial beekeepers. I will be honest, and we have expressed this to our bee inspectors, we think that this process is flawed. We were offered the opportunity to participate on DASH a number of years ago but we oppose it on its principle. Effectively its marking your own homework.

For as long as we are willing to learn from others bee inspectors should be welcomed. Sometimes, and this will be a case for elsewhere, the bee inspectors have less experience than the beekeepers they are visiting. But if you have nothing to hide why oppose it? For as long as it’s a free process why oppose it? If the bee inspectors has far less experience can’t we help educate those?

Frank and Maggie

So, for as long as the visits are cordial and are concerned with animal health and welfare what’s the opposition? Are we as beekeepers really too big for our boots to take any advice? We look forward to the next visit and chew the cud!

Visit from APHA/DEFRA Bee Inspectors