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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Funding cuts threaten bee health
Bee pollinating flower   1999 Eyewire, Inc
Bees are battling two diseases which threaten British hives
The chairman of Britain's national beekeeping association has warned cuts to the number of hive inspectors could worsen the effects of bee diseases.

Dr Ivor Davis of the British Beekeepers' Association says losing seasonal bee inspectors could lead to the collapse of many hives.

The inspectors help contain outbreaks of European foul brood disease and monitor varroa mite infestations.

The loss of the part-time inspectors is due to civil service cost-cutting.

The seasonal inspectors, employed from April to October each year, are run out of the National Bee Unit (NBU), part of the UK's Central Science Laboratory based in York.

As a result of Chancellor Gordon Brown's recent civil service budget cuts, the NBU has had its funding cut from 1.25m to 1m.

Double threat

"It may not sound like much, but if you have seasonal inspectors paid 10,000 a year you have to get rid of a lot of them to save 250,000," Dr Davis said.

"These people are very local, and very dedicated; they are working in their local communities and have built very good relationships with beekeepers," Dr Davis said.

He said inspectors were vital in combating the effects of European Foul Brood and the Varroa mite, both now widespread in the UK.

European Foul Brood is caused by bacteria in the gut of bee larvae, killing the grubs by starving them of nutrients. It can also lead to other diseases through the grubs' rotting remains.

Parasitic varroa mites attach themselves to bees and sap their energy.

It is reasonable for the government to spend less than 1% of that total to help prevent disease
Dr Ivor Davis, British Beekeepers' Association
Dr Davis said the beekeeping community could ill afford to lose the inspectors' expertise.

He called on the government - which he said had a statutory responsibility to fighting the two diseases - to overturn the planned funding cuts.

He said the health of Britain's bees was vital to the UK's agricultural sector.

"In 2001 the Value of Bees Report in the UK gave the value of bees to the UK economy at 120m. They're of particular importance to the top-fruit sector.

"It is reasonable for the government to spend less than 1% of that total to help prevent disease," he said.

The British Beekeepers' Association represents more than 9,000 amateur beekeepers around the country.


SEE ALSO:
Beekeepers meet to discuss mites
16 May 04  |  Hereford/Worcs
Bee re-homing scheme launched
12 May 04  |  Guernsey
Beekeepers battle killer mite
05 May 03  |  Scotland


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