SCIENTISTS at a North Yorkshire laboratory are buzzing after their online database for helping keep track of bees’ health won a national award.

The honeymaking insects have been the centre of intense concern in recent years as their numbers tumbled because of a major disease and poor summers.

The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) at Sand Hutton has run the BeeBase database for four years to manage valuable data and information on bee health across England and Wales. Now it has won the 2009 Whitehall & Westminster World Civil Service Award for Knowledge Management and Analysis.

Since its creation in 2005, BeeBase has been used by beekeepers and the National Bee Unit (NBU). It provides information on the functional activities of the NBU, legislation, pests and diseases including their recognition and control, interactive maps, current research areas, publications, advisory leaflets and key contacts.

The database has also allowed beekeepers to access details of their own bees and diagnostic histories for the first time over the internet.

They can register and request a free apiary – bee yard – visit from their local inspector who will provide any help and advice they need.

Inspectors use BeeBase to maximise their efficiency and effectiveness, using the information to identify apiaries most at risk of pests or diseases. Miles Thomas, head of FERA’s knowledge management team, said: “The judges received over 800 nominations and the standard was high across the board, so this is a really great achievement, and we’re understandably very proud. “When you consider all that BeeBase can do along with the disease surveillance programme in place, we believe we’ve helped to create something truly unique. We don’t know of any other country in the world that offers their beekeepers the service that beekeepers in England and Wales receive.”