When we set up LASI Queen Bees in April 2016 we knew it would be a challenge. But we had a plan for supplying hygienic queens that was practical, and from the research we and others have done we knew that we had a worthwhile product: bees with natural resistance to diseases of brood in sealed cells.
During spring 2016 we got set up in record time and provided several hundred queens to British beekeepers. However, anyone who has been in business knows that the unexpected can happen. Unfortunately, that is what did happen. This spring we found European Foulbrood in some of our hives. EFB is endemic in Sussex and now, mid May 2017, half of our apiaries are under standstill. Since LASI was set up 21 years ago we had been free of EFB. So perhaps we can count ourselves lucky, even if our luck has run out.
Due to the EFB we feel that we cannot carry on with LASI Queen Bees. In particular, the problem we face is that it is no longer practical to rear queens commercially because so many of our apiaries, including the apiary beside the laboratory, cannot be used.
For the past month we have been working with the Bee Inspectors of the National Bee Unit, and are following their advice and the regulations that apply to EFB, which is a statutory disease of honey bees. Please note that the queens we have supplied have come from apiaries without EFB and are not under standstill.
What does the future hold for LASI Queen Bees and the supply of queens reared from our hygienic stocks to beekeepers? The answer is that we do not know, but for 2017 we will not be able to supply queens to beekeepers. We hope that in the future we may be able to resume a limited service, supplying small numbers of tested breeder queens to large-scale beekeepers and queen rearers. If we can do this, then we will still be able to do what we had set out to do in the first place, which was to make hygienic bees available to UK beekeepers. We are also planning to maintain our hygienic stocks of bees.
LASI Queen Bees has also resulted in our preparing a great deal of outreach information for beekeepers, both on hygienic behaviour and other topics of interest to beekeepers. This is on the LQB website, under the Blog and How To menus. As a result, we are considering keeping the LQB web site going for outreach purposes.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported LASI Queen Bees, including the beekeepers who have bought queens, the University of Sussex’s Enterprise scheme, which helped us get started with an initial grant to hire a technician in year 1 and for some other expenses, and the Sussex Innovation Centre.
Francis Ratnieks - June 2017