The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) haslaunched a new initiative that hopes to ensure the survival of theBritish honeybees at a time of mounting pressure on the insects fromforeign pests and diseases.

Colonies of wild bees have already been wiped out altogether in parts of the country and the minister for sustainable food, farming and animal health, Lord Rooker, has already admitted that he fears “the bee will be gone within 10 years”. The worry is that the colonies of bees maintained by amateur beekeepers will soon fall victim to these new hazards.Already in the USA and parts of Europe, bee colonies have been decimated. The most major threat comes from the varroa infestation, which arrived in Britain 15 years ago. The varroa mite is able to develop a resistance to available treatments, resulting in beekeepers being powerless to fight the invasion.Cases caused by other threats such as the parasitic brood mite and the Asian Hornet are also on the increase and beekeepers are blaming the government for not spending enough money on research into bee colony threats, causing a loss of what once were world-class research establishments into bee health.The British Beekeepers Association (BBA) has welcomed the decision – which focuses on more efficient biosecurity and better bee husbandry – but announced that it believes the project will fail unless it is supported by better funding for research. The annual budget for research of around £200,000 has not been increased.BBKA chairman Martin Smith said, “I doubt whether the honeybee will disappear completely, but we could end up with vastly reducer numbers”. The loss of the honeybee would be a destructive blow for farmers because bees pollinate crops and are estimated to be worth £1 billion per year to the economy.Announcing the new strategy, Lord Rooker said “It is vital that we do all we can to respond effectively to these threats and to sustain honey bees and beekeeping for today and for future generations”.

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