Page last updated at 09:26 GMT, Saturday, 6 September 2008 10:26 UK

Buzz-light year as bees struggle

Honey bees
Honey bees have suffered from bad weather and disease

The health of Scotland's honey bee colonies are in their worst state for years, according to the Scottish Beekeepers Association.

President Ian Craig said there had been significant losses in the Black Isle and Easter Ross in the Highlands.

Cold weather has led to eggs not being fertilised so producing more males than worker females.

The Scottish Government is due to announce the details of a bees strategy next week.

University of Stirling-based Bumblebee Conservation Trust has previously expressed grave concerns for the survival of wild bees.

Great parts of Scotland have very little honey
Ian Craig
Scottish Bee Association

Mr Craig, who runs bees in Renfrewshire, said commercial honey producers and amateur beekeepers had serious worries about the effects of parasites, disease and a poor summer.

He said while it was thought colony collapse disorder - a condition wiping out bees in the US - had not reached Scotland there were problems with varroa mite.

The parasites leave bee larvae deformed and can spread a condition called Israeli paralysis virus.

Bad weather has been a major factor - hitting both flowering plants visited by bees and the insects' breeding.

Mr Craig said: "Great parts of Scotland have very little honey.

"The oilseed rape crop was poor and in some areas the heather has failed.

"Other troubles people are complaining about is queens not mating. They mate on the wing so if the weather is bad they won't do that."

Hamish Robertson, of Struan Apiaries which runs about 700 hives near Dingwall in the Highlands, said he had enjoyed an "excellent" year in terms of honey production though he had heard reports of 80% of colonies being lost in Easter Ross.

Mr Robertson said: "There have been big, big losses. It's very serious."


SEE ALSO
'Milestone' for far north company
28 Aug 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Wild bee decline 'catastrophic'
23 Apr 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Panic in the beehive
12 Feb 08 |  Magazine

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