The National Bee Improvement Programme (NatBIP)

Welcome to the National Bee Improvement Programme (NatBIP) which has been launched in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. This is an initiative organised by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association (BIBBA), with the twin aims of reducing the number of imports of honey bees into Britain, Ireland and associated islands,* and of improving the quality of our honey bees. This Programme aims to provide a way forward to a stable and sustainable future for our beekeeping.

Imports of bees and, in particular, queens have been rising rapidly in the past decade. The Healthy Bees Plan, 2009 (England and Wales), and the Honey Bee Health Strategy, 2010 (Scotland), identified imports as a possible biosecurity risk to our bees, as does the Healthy Bees Plan 2030 (published November 2020). A reduction in the number of imports, and therefore in the risks facing our bees, can only be achieved if an alternative is provided, along with a good reason for choosing that alternative. The National Bee Improvement Programme (NatBIP) aims to make an alternative available as well as a reason for making that choice.

The Coloss Group’s experiment examining the survival qualities of imported bees as compared to local bees, around Europe, reported in the Journal of Apicultural Research, (2014, Volume 53 Issue 2) highlighted the benefits of using local bees rather than imported ones. It stated, “… the conservation of bee diversity and the support of local breeding activities must be prioritised in order to prevent colony losses, to optimize a sustainable productivity and to enable a continuous adaptation to environmental changes”. NatBIP focuses on just such an approach.

Now is time for beekeepers to help transform our beekeeping landscape by supporting, and participating, in this Programme. NatBIP is designed for all beekeepers to take part in and promote as a sustainable system of bee improvement, whatever their experience or beekeeping circumstances. This is something that has never been attempted before and represents an ambitious project for beekeepers and their bees.

We look forward to a safer future for our bees, with reduced biosecurity risks, and the development of a more hardy, docile and productive bee.

Jo Widdicombe
BIBBA President
January 2021