As part of its activity and objectives, BDI funds research into the causes of bee diseases. By pooling a proportion of member subscriptions, BDI is funding greater understanding of the diseases it insures against. This in turn promotes good practice to ultimately reduces the incidence of disease and maintains a healthy honeybee population in England & Wales. 

January 2021 -  Whole apiary shook swarm EFB trial

Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd (BDI) and the National Bee Unit (NBU) will launch a two-year trial this season (2021) to encourage the use of whole apiary shook swarm as a means of reducing the reoccurrence of European Foulbrood (EFB). 

The trial was originally due to start last year but was postponed because of the pandemic.

EFB is a statutory notifiable disease of honey bees and beekeepers are legally obligated to report any suspected diseased colonies to the NBU under the Bee Diseases and Pests Control Order 2006 (as amended).

Infected colonies are normally destroyed or shook swarmed when a local bee inspector confirms EFB. Equipment and honey destroyed following this inspection can be subject to compensation provided by BDI. 

A review of BDI and NBU records shows that EFB frequently reoccurs within an infected apiary. In an attempt to break the cycle, the two organisations are working together to encourage the use of shook swarming of non-infected colonies. 

BDI is offering greater cover for the duration of the trial period – 2021-22: 

  • Additional compensation for beekeepers who shook swarm the non-infected colonies in their infected apiary. The compensation will be on the same basis as for infected colonies.  
  • Similar compensation if the beekeeper is willing to accept the destruction of combs in empty equipment located within the same apiary.

The new initiative will also apply to apiaries shared by up to three beekeepers if they are all fully insured and agree to participate. Beekeepers who chose to shook swarm all their non-infected colonies within an infected apiary will be compensated under the terms of the current scheme.  

Apiaries with more than three beekeepers are not covered by this pilot because of the bee inspector’s logistical difficulties in contacting all owners within the time they have available. 


  • There is no change in cover and compensation rates provided for infected colonies. 
  • The full cost of the pilot scheme will be funded from BDI reserves and will not result in any increase in subscription rates during the period of the trial. 
  • The normal claim reduction formula will apply (BDI calculation). 
  • This is an offer only. The beekeeper does not have to accept and claim for shook swarming of non-infected colonies. 
  • Colonies too small to shook swarm at the time of inspection will be covered if the beekeeper undertakes to shook swarm the colony when it is strong enough and destroys the original combs. 
  • BDI reserves the right to withdraw the whole apiary shook swarm offer at any time.

The NBU and BDI will analyse the results in general and the re-occurrence rates in particular at the end of the study. These will be used to assist in the guidance issued for dealing with EFB in future. 

Photo credit:  Crown copyright 

January 2021 - Bee Diseases Insurance and Somerset BKA fund research into a unique strain of EFB

Research has started into the virulent ST2 strain of EFB which is uniquely associated with Somerset and north Dorset. ST2 has been found in this part of the country for at least 10 years with very few outbreaks of other sequence types. 

Bee Diseases Insurance (BDI) and Somerset BKA are jointly funding PhD student Hollie Pufel over the next four years. She will investigate this local EFB cluster using modern molecular methods in an attempt to improve the understanding of disease transmission and discover why this disease cluster is so persistent in the area.

A few years ago BDI asked Fera to undertake further research into EFB and funded Dr Ed Haynes to develop a bioinformatics pipeline to sequence genomes of the causal agent, Melissococcus plutonius, which revealed that there were different strains of EFB.

Hollie will refine this protocol and use it to assess transmission events using Somerset as the case study. She will be working with beekeepers across the county as well as with NBU Bee Inspectors to improve local disease control measures.

EFB is the most prevalent bacterial brood disease in England and Wales with up to 350 cases each year and, in some years, Somerset had the dubious distinction of having the highest number of cases. 

Hollie said: “Having worked with plants for the last few years I am new to the bee world, but I am looking forward to learning more about their fascinating behaviours and to a new challenge.”

Hollie is supervised by Professor Giles Budge, co-supervised by Professor Steve Rushton both from Newcastle University, Dr Ed Haynes from Fera Science Ltd as well as BDI.

October 2020 - A three-year research project to explore the transmission and triggers of European Foulbrood Disease funded by BDI & CB Dennis Trust is underway

A three-year PhD studentship to explore the transmission and triggers of European Foulbrood Disease funded by BDI & the CB Dennis Trust started this autumn. Monika Yordanova (pictured below) has been appointed to undertake the work based at Imperial College London.


Monika writes:

This year I start my PhD investigation to help understand the factors that influence honeybee vulnerability to European Foul Brood (EFB) so that we may develop and promote evidence-based disease management strategies. My PhD is being undertaken with thanks to generous funding from Bee Disease Insurance Limited and the CB Dennis Trust. Based at Imperial College London, I will be aided in developing my ideas and research by my primary supervisor, Dr Peter Graystock from Imperial College London, and my secondary supervisors, Dr Richard Gill from Imperial College London and Dr Sophie Evison from Nottingham University.

European Foulbrood is a globally distributed disease that kills developing brood and can cause significant energetic costs to surviving adults. This reduces hive fitness and facilitates further spread of the disease. Additionally, the causal bacterium can be spread from healthy individuals through feeding larvae with contaminated food. Symptoms of the disease include an uneven or patchy brood pattern, dead and discoloured larvae found in uncapped cells and a characteristic "sour" smell. It is one of the only two microbial bee diseases (the other being American Foulbrood) where positive detection in the UK warrants immediate notification to the authorities. This indicates the serious nature of the disease and its potential for rapid spread to other local colonies. This PhD venture will focus on investigating how the bacteria responsible for causing EFB,  Melissococcus plutonius, is transmitted. Additionally, I aim to explore some of the factors that may enhance the bacteria's virulence, which may allow me to identify some management practices that reduce the severity of the disease in beekeepers’ hives. To carry out my PhD I will be collaborating with the National Bee Unit to help collect samples and data, in addition to my own fieldwork to assess the health of UK honeybees. Once I have a clear picture of disease status and trends, I will be using the state-of-the-art microbiology facilities at Imperial College London to safely work with the EFB causal parasite and confirm the conditions that favour and disfavour its growth in honeybee larvae.


Though I have some beekeeper experience to gain, this will not be my first time working with bees and I’m very excited to get started. As an undergraduate student, I joined the Insect Cognition Lab at the Royal Holloway University of London as a volunteer and quickly became mesmerized with bees, appreciative of their invaluable ecological role and curious about their intriguing social behaviour. Since then I took on an individual research project exploring bumblebee social foraging behaviour and have just completed an MRes at University College London, where I explored population genetics of the common wasp and worked with the Natural History Museum in London to model farm management strategies to target herbicide-resistant weeds. Now in 2020, I am embarking on my PhD journey. I hope that this will allow me to apply all of the skills I’ve accumulated so far (and pick up on some new ones!) to guide advice on managing the animals I love most, bees.


To read more about the research project, look at the announcement of October 2019 further down the page.

September 2020 - Preliminary announcement of a 2nd PhD studentship with Newcastle University: 
New tools to improve the management of honey bee disease

This project, funded in conjunction with Somerset Beekeepers Association, will look at the ways of managing European Foul Brood.

January 2020 - BDI announce sponsorship of a PhD studentship with Newcastle University: Modelling host and disease behaviours as drivers of chronic bee paralysis emergence.

Ben Rowlands is from a small town an hour north of Boston, Massachusetts in the USA. He did his undergraduate and masters degree at Newcastle University before moving on to a PhD in the Modelling Evidence and Policy group also at Newcastle. As part of his PhD, Ben will be using a combination of laboratory experiments and computer models to identify the key drivers of an emerging honey bee virus: chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV). 
Over the last decade, chronic bee paralysis cases have been increasing in the UK, with little known about how or why. Ben’s laboratory experiments are designed to identify epidemiological traits of CBPV such as transmission routes and severity, elucidating bee-to-bee viral spread
In addition, the computer models aim to simulate honey bee behaviour and CBPV epidemiology to examine multiple infection scenarios, particularly at a full-hive scale. Finally, Ben will be using the computer models to explore possible management techniques for this virus with the goal of informing beekeepers of ways to mitigate CBPV outbreaks.


October 2019 - BDI & CB Dennis Trust announce the awarding of a major grant for research into European Foul Brood (EFB)

The CB Dennis British Beekeepers Research Trust and Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd are delighted to announce the awarding of funding to Dr Peter Graystock and Dr Richard Gill of Imperial College London and Dr Sophie Evison of the University of Nottingham for a project to investigate the transmission of the honey bee disease European Foul Brood (EFB)

Maintaining a healthy honey bee population is crucial for food security and preservation of the natural ecosystem service of pollination. European foul brood (EFB) is a disease of honey bee brood caused by the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius. Symptomatic infections of the larvae include the infected larvae losing their internal pressure, becoming flaccid, before ultimately dying and degrading to just a dark scale in the brood cell. This lethal effect on developing individuals has led it to be considered one of the most significant diseases of honey bees worldwide and responsible for substantial damage to the beekeeping industry.  Yet to date, we are only just beginning to understand the transmission and triggers of EFB.

 This project will look at these transmission routes and triggers of EFB with the ultimate aim of providing a better understanding and improved control over this disease.

 Jointly the two organisations will be providing around £90,000 of funding over three years to support the PhD student research – emphasising that the beekeeping industry as a whole is serious about funding research into ensuring that we maintain a healthy honey bee population.

 Martin Smith, President of BDI said: “BDI is pleased to be able to fund this project. EFB is of great concern to our 180 member associations in turn to their 25,000 beekeeping members.  As well as insuring against costs associated with disease, funding research to try and reduce its incidence is a clear aim of our organisation”

 Simon Baker, the Chair of the CB Dennis Trust said:  “The Trustees are very pleased to jointly fund this valuable research.  Cooperating in this way helps us fund larger projects such as Studentships, which train the next generation of research scientists as well as helping better understand bee diseases.”

 Dr Peter Graystock said: “This studentship will provide valuable insight into one of the most destructive honeybee diseases. We are incredibly excited that The CB Dennis British Beekeepers Research Trust, and Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd recognised the importance of this work and agreed to fund the studentship.”


BDI & CB Dennis Trust announce a call for research projects:

September 2019 - Applications are now closed for this funding

BDI announce major funding into the relationship between Honey Bees, Deformed Wing Virus and the Varroa mite

Projects recently funded have included:

European Foul Brood
Distinguishing between EFB outbreaks – tracking infections and differences between countries

European Foulbrood
Photo Courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

American Foulbrood

A typing scheme for Paenibacillus larvae, the causative agent of American foulbrood.

American Foulbrood
Photo Courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

Honey Bee Working Borage

Investigating the impacts of nutrition on Honey Bee Health

Honey Bee Foraging on Borage
Photo Courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

Call for more research projects

The Directors of BDI are inviting more researchers to submit proposals for funding from the company.
During the next 12 months, one four year project and one 3 year project will be completed and as a result, BDI now invites proposals from the research community for funding for additional work.
Proposals, which should specifically be in the field of bee diseases / bee health should be addressed to the Secretary of BDI.  Priority will be given to those projects that seek to increase the level of understanding American and European Foul brood, although other disease related projects will also be considered.

Researchers are invited to contact  to Bernard Diaper informally if they wish before submitting a formal application.