There is good news on the future availability of bee medicines in the UK. There was a possibility that medicines that we currently use for varroosis would no longer be available from our current suppliers. The reason for this was the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2005, which implement the European Directive, 2004/28/EC. Under the new regulations all medicines for food producing animals (which bees are), would in future be available on veterinary prescription only. This would have meant taking our bees to the vet or having them come to our apiaries and was a recipe for farce, massive cost increases and ultimately inadequate treatment of this condition.
The BBKA has been in discussion on the new legislation with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) here in the UK for more than a year. Pressure from BBKA and other beekeeping organisations across Europe resulted in the European Commission putting forward revised proposals which would see criteria laid down centrally and exemptions granted by nation states. However, these proposals do not cover the other agents used in controlling varroa and for which formal approval as veterinary medicines was unlikely, not least due the cost of obtaining such an approval and the inability of the applicant to protect their investment, as these are generic substances.
After several meetings with the VMD BBKA have reached a position which ensures that we can continue to manage bee diseases properly.
Firstly, the criteria have at last been approved by the EU Commission. These now go to the European Parliament and will adopted into UK law during 2007, taking effect from October 2007. The VMD has agreed to make exemptions for currently approved medicines, namely, Apistan, Bayvarol, Apiguard, Fumidil B and Certan. Until the date of adoption and thereafter, these medicines will continue to be available through existing channels. Oxytetracycline, used to treat EFB, is not exempted and will continue to be supplied via the NBU inspectorate. Other medicines which may be approved in other EU states e.g. Apitol and Apivar are not exempted and thus their use continues to be illegal in the UK.
Secondly, the VMD has stated on the authority of the Minister, that they have no intention of pursuing those who supply, possess or use oxalic acid and similar substances as hive cleansing agents or to help control varroa. The BBKA is free to provide advice to its members on the safe and proper use of these substances and a leaflet is in preparation to achieve this. Their preference is for ready made solutions of oxalic acid syrup rather than extemporaneous preparations made by bee keepers from oxalic acid crystals.
This is good news for beekeepers and we should be grateful that BBKA has been working hard for us on this. Please see the Herts Bees newsletter for a copy of the letter from BBKA containing full details.