Beekeepers call on farming minister to staff up the vital inspection service
A shortage of bee inspectors is endangering the health of the insects which are vital for the pollination of a huge range of plant life, Somerset Beekeepers have warned.
They have called on Farming Minister David Heath to protect local honeybees by fully staffing its vital Bee Inspection Service.
David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome, met with a delegation of beekeepers, headed by Somerset Beekeepers' Association outgoing president, Ken Edwards, vice-president David Morris and Pat Lehain.
"The bee inspectors are essential in helping beekeepers to control the highly contagious and fatal diseases which are hitting local colonies hard," said Mr Morris.
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"At present we have only one part-time inspector rather than a full complement of three as in previous years to cover the whole county which is woefully inadequate given the size of the area, number of apiaries and likely level of disease."
In recent years there has been an increase in the incidence of deadly European Foul Brood disease which was found in 130 colonies in 2012, the highest level in the country.
Mr Morris added: "That happened when we had three seasonal bee inspectors who were fully stretched. Failure to staff the service adequately will undoubtedly increase the incidence of disease problems across the county."
The delegation went on to explain that, while the Government is funding several beekeeping organisations to run training programmes, levels of knowledge about disease among local beekeepers is inadequate to safeguard the health of honeybee colonies.
"We believe it makes sense to support a tried-and-tested route and allow local associations to work with their members alongside the support of the bee inspectors who, being employed by the National Bee Unit that is part of Defra, can also promote the services and the excellent free guidance notes they produce to the benefit of all beekeepers."
Somerset Beekeepers' have an outstanding record of encouraging its more than 500 members to attend training and lectures and to gain qualifications from their local branches.
Mr Morris said: "The minister listened carefully to the points we made on behalf of the beekeepers and indicated he was sympathetic to the case we were presenting."