Royal beekeeper fined over illegally drugging honey bees

A beekeeper who has produced honey for Prince Charles has been fined £2,500 after he admitted drugging thousands of honey bees with illegally imported medication.

Royal apiarist Murray McGregor fined over illegal veterinary drugs. Picture: Greg Macvean

Royal apiarist Murray McGregor admitted importing and administering a banned substance to 3,000 hives across the UK.

Scotland’s largest beekeeper, McGregor, who produced honey for Prince Charles, is the first person in the UK to be convicted of the charges in the groundbreaking legal case.

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McGregor, the owner of Denrosa Apiaries in Blairgowrie, admitted he had “administered unauthorised veterinary medicinal products” to an animal, namely the honey bee.

Perth Sheriff Court was told his colonies of bees had become infected with European Foulbrood and McGregor was told he would be given officially approved antibiotics to treat the disease.

But the court was told he never bothered waiting for the authorities and instead bought unlicensed Terramycin from the US over the internet. Subsequent sampling found the illicit drug within his colonies.

McGregor, 61, of Blairgowrie, Perthshire, faced a total of seven charges relating to breaches of the Finance Act 1973, the European Communities Act 1972 and the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2008.

Of those, he pled guilty to importing the unauthorised medicinal product, Terramycin 100MR, between July 2009 and October 2010.

He also admitted giving the Terramycin 100MR to an animal, namely the honey bee, in contravention of the relevant regulations. He admitted a third charge of possessing the substance without authorisation.

Solicitor Kevin Lancaster, defending, said: “It is a family company with 3,000 hives of bees in Scotland and parts of England. It is the largest bee firm in Scotland and has five staff. This goes back to 2009.

“It was identified by Mr McGregor that some of the colonies were showing signs of disease. The scale of this was unprecedented within the industry. Further tests showed it was widespread. The disease continued to spread. If left unchecked it would effectively decimate the bee population. Burning all the hives was not a viable option.”

McGregor has produced honey for Prince Charles’ Duchy Estate in the past. In 2009, a bee farm he owned in the Lothians was targeted by thieves and 11 hives containing up to 500,000 bees were stolen. The bees were due to be transferred to the Balmoral Estate.