§ 13. Mr. Dalyell
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the situation of the varroa mite among bees.
§ Mr. Curry
To contain the spread of varroa, and in consultation with the beekeeping organisations, I declared an infected area south of a line between the Severn and the Thames. Movement outside that area is prohibited except under licence. Until now, the disease has been confirmed in 267 apiaries within the infected area. Varroa has recently been found in 17 apiaries in Suffolk and one in Lincolnshire. Following further consultation with the beekeepers, I have decided that the infected area will be extended from midnight tonight to include the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. I have written to the beekeeping organisations and instructed that copies of the letter should be placed in the Library of the House.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As a beekeeper until the then Government Chief Whip, Lord Glenamara, brought it home to me that the requirements of swarming bees and Government Whips did not go together, may I point out that this is a very serious matter for beekeepers? Could the Government do something while the varroa mite is on the bee in its adult form rather than hidden in cells?
§ Mr. Curry
I agree. It is a very serious matter. I have taken no action except in consultation with the beekeeping industry, because the industry is determined that we should try to limit the spread of the infection. We are doing important research into this matter and, following the discovery of varroasis, we have reviewed the bee health research programme and increased expenditure on it to about £200,000. The Central Science Laboratory has been asked to give priority to the development of a rapid field diagnostic test and, in addition, the Institute of Agricultural Crop Research will be undertaking long-term research into causes of mortality in varroa-infected bees.