The government has published an action plan aimed at sustaining honey bee populations in England and Wales.

Defra's Healthy Bees Plan 2030 sets out more than 50 actions which beekeepers, bee farmers, bee associations and government will undertake to protect and enhance populations of honey bees.

Honey bees continue to face pressure from a variety of pests, diseases and environmental threats and the new Implementation Plan sets out actions to sustain the health of honey bees and beekeeping in England and Wales over the next decade.

The plan was developed in consultation with stakeholders and includes promoting training and support as a key action to improve beekeeping skills and provide a supportive and inclusive community.

Role in food production

Honey bees contribute directly to food production and make an important contribution, through pollination, to crop production and the wider environment.

They are just one of many species of pollinator in the UK, alongside 26 species of bumble bee, over 250 species of solitary bee and hundreds of types of hoverflies, butterflies and moths. Actions to support and improve the status of wild pollinators are set out in the National Pollinator Strategy for England.

The economic benefit of pollination – provided by all of these species groups - to crop production in the UK is over half a billion pounds each year, based on yield, Defra said.

It described the plan as an important step towards achieving the four key outcomes set out in the Healthy Bees Plan 2030. They are:

- Effective biosecurity and good standards of husbandry, to minimise pest and disease risks and so improve the sustainability of honey bee populations.

- Enhanced skills and production capability/capacity of beekeepers and bee farmers.

- Sound science and evidence underpinning the actions taken to support honey bee health.

- Increased opportunities for knowledge exchange and partnership working on honey bee health and wider pollinator needs.

'Hugely important year for nature'

Launching the Implementation Plan, environment minister Rebecca Pow said: 'In this hugely important year for nature, our Implementation Plan is packed with meaningful, tangible actions that will deliver the goals of the Healthy Bees Plan 2030 to look after the health of some of our most iconic and industrious insects – honey bees.

'I’d like to thank our honey bee health stakeholders who have played an important role in developing our plan, and we look forward to continuing to work together to help ensure future generations can enjoy this wonderful hobby and profession while connecting with nature.

'The Implementation Plan will now be taken forward together in collaboration with beekeepers, bee farmers, bee keeping associations and government, alongside ongoing action to support wild pollinators under the National Pollinator Strategy for England and the Welsh Government’s Action Plan for Pollinators.'