Bumbling beekeepers breeding mite plague

``And is there honey still for tea?'' Perhaps not, in a few years - because many of Britain's beekeepers are failing to take a lethal parasite seriously.

Yesterday the largest organisation representing the nation's apiarists launched a stinging attack, saying there were far too many elderly, over-individualistic and out-of-touch beekeepers letting the varroa run rife.

Alan Johnson, chairman of the British Beekeepers' Association, launching the first National Varroa Week yesterday, said: ``Either they should join us and treat this threat seriously, or get out of beekeeping.''

The disease arrived in Britain in 1992, having already spread through Europe. First diagnosed in Devon, it has moved northwards through England and Wales and is now at the Scottish border. The parasite is a mite, a pin-head sized, ovoid creature with stubby legs related to spiders and scorpions. It sucks body fluids from the developing grubs, leaving the adults to become weakened and spreading viral diseases between bees.

Even the hive at London Zoo in Regent's Park, where the awareness week was launched yesterday, has the parasite - but it has been treated and is under control.

Once the mite builds up a large population it can wipe out a hive. The surviving adults then abandon ship and fly off carrying mites which can infect other colonies.

More than honey is at stake, since both wild and kept honeybees are among the most important pollinators of crops and wildflowers.

Mr Johnson said that when the disease was raging through Hampshire around 18 months ago nearly three-quarters of all colonies were lost. Local growers of strawberries, raspberries and apples and pears noticed a distinct decline in their crop.

Only one anti-varroa veterinary product is licensed by the government for use in Britain. Not surprisingly its manufacturer, Bayer, was keen to promote the awareness week yesterday.

The treatment consists of plastic strips impregnated with a pesticide hung in the hive which wipes out the mite but not the bee. The association wants its members to use the product, strictly according to instructions, in order to minimise the parasite's spread.

But most of the nation's 35,000 beekeepers, who mostly do it as a hobby, do not belong and many are elderly. In Britain 4,000 bee-keepers have notified the government of infection so far.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 1st Line

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have been providing local ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive / Trainee Managers

£6000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for smart, orga...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers / Car Movers

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones