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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 13:22 GMT
Killer bug hits honey production
The threat is so serious it is being likened to Aids for bees
Bee enthusiasts north of the border have been stung by their worst season on record.

A combination of a killer mite and the wet summer has resulted in the least amount of honey so far from crops in the Highlands.

The threat from the bug - the Varroa destructor mite - is so serious, it is being likened to Aids for bees.

It is posing a risk to the Highlands' 30 beekeepers who are fighting to save their colonies from the lethal mite.

Bee colonies can be managed to live alongside it, although there is no totally successful way of combating it.

The only way honey bees will survive in the Highlands is if beekeepers are properly trained to manage their colonies
Robert Wylie
Damp weather also prevented the insects from collecting enough nectar and they were forced to eat what harvest they were successful in collecting.

One beekeeper's production was down from a normal 200 pounds to just 20.

Michael Baird, president of the Easter Ross Beekeepers' Association and vice-president of the Sutherland Beekeepers' Association, said: "It is been a real struggle to harvest any honey this year.

"We can only hope for a better season next year in a bid to reverse the trend."

Fellow-enthusiast Robert Wylie warned: "The only way honey bees will survive in the Highlands is if beekeepers are properly trained to manage their colonies.

Bees under threat

"There is no magic answer, but we have seen some positive results from the continent where they have been coping with this for a long time."

Una Robertson, of the Scottish Beekeepers' Association, added she hoped that the "diligence and enthusiasm" of groups like hers would help to ensure that beekeeping in Scotland survived and thrived.

Green-fingered Scots were urged earlier this year to help in the battle to save the threatened garden bumblebee.

Populations have been declining over the past 50 years, due to the loss of flower-rich habitats.

Scottish Natural Heritage produced a guidebook offering advice on how to be more bumblebee-friendly.

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