HC Deb 15 September 2003 vol 410 c544W
Ms Atherton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department has(a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on chemical resistant varroa mites; and what plans she has to contain the spread of varroa mites. [113257]

Mr. Bradshaw

Controlling varroa is still the single most important challenge to UK beekeeping today. The pest is now endemic across much of the UK. Defra (and MAFF before it) has been funding a range of measures applied by the National Bee Unit under the Department's bee health programme, and R&D to better equip beekeepers to manage varroa infestations in their colonies ever since it was first detected in Devon in 1992. These measures include the provision of a free diagnostic and inspection service as well as training and education to enable beekeepers to become self-reliant in controlling the mite through improved bee husbandry.

The Department has not yet commissioned any R&D on resistant mites, although current research investigating biological control methods for varroa is extremely relevant given the presence in England and Wales of varroa mites resistant to Apistan and Bayvarol, until recently the only two varroacides authorised for use in the UK.

As has been demonstrated on the Continent, the varroa mite will develop resistance to most chemicals applied to control it; the spread of resistance is therefore inevitable. However, with foresight, the National Bee Unit began implementing a surveillance programme monitoring apiaries for signs of resistance in early 2000. As a result, the UK has been one of only a few countries that has been able to detect resistance before it has become fully established, thus enabling us to take action to help beekeepers treat affected colonies at an early stage. Although resistance is more widespread this year, the recent introduction on the UK market of a new treatment for varroa is welcome. Unlike Apistan and Bayvarol, the new product, Apiguard, is not based on a pyrethroid active ingredient and beekeepers will be able to use this, along with other controls, in particular Integrated Pest Management, which we are strongly advocating, to combat pyrethroid resistant mites.