Page last updated at 05:52 GMT, Friday, 3 April 2009 06:52 UK

Calls for a bee breeding scheme

Roger Williams MP  (left) with beekeeper Karl Showler at the recent Welsh Beekeepers Convention in Powys.
Roger Williams MP (left) with beekeeper Karl Showler at the recent Welsh Beekeepers Convention in Powys.

Calls to set up a national bee breeding programme to help tackle the threat posed from disease have been made by an MP.

The registered bee population in the UK has shrunk by between 10% and 15% and many have fallen victim to varroa, a parasitic mite that attacks honey bees.

Brecon and Radnorshire MP Roger Williams said a breeding project would help make them resistant to varroa.

There are fears a Europe-wide shortage of bees could affect crop pollination.

Mr Williams, who is the Liberal Democrats' food and rural affairs spokesman, said bees played a "vital role in food production" through pollination.

He made his comments during food and environment questions in the House of Commons on Thursday.

'Move quickly'

The MP added: "The government should implement a bee breeding project to help introduce varieties of bees that are resistant to varroa and do not require chemical treatment.

"The response I received from the secretary of state was encouraging. While he did not commit to a bee breeding programme he did offer to look into where funding was directed and see if there were any gaps that needed to be addressed.

"I hope that his department will move quickly on this issue to ensure that current bee populations do not drop further."

Last month, a top civil servant admitted research into bee disease had not been a "top priority" despite mounting concern about declining populations.

But Dame Helen Ghosh, of the environment food and rural affairs department (Defra), said more money was now being ploughed into solving the crisis.

She said the government had woken up to beekeepers' concerns and had recently announced a "healthy bees plan" - to cover research, husbandry and disease control - and another £500,000 a year from Defra for the next five years, supplemented by more money from partners.

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