BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 12, 2003 (ENS):
The European Commission today limited the import of
live honey bees and bumble bees to protect the EU bee
population from two exotic parasites. Under the decision
adopted today all imported bees must be examined for
signs of the parasites when they arrive in the EU.
The two parasites - the small hive beetle Aethina tumida
and the parasitic mite Tropilaelaps - have never been
reported in the EU but, if introduced from third countries,
they could endanger bee health, the apiculture industry
and honey production, said the Commission.
"These two parasites have had a devastating effect
on the health of honey bees, the bee industry and the
production of honey in affected third countries,"
said David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer
Protection. "The EU needs simple import rules to
make sure these bee parasites do not hitch a ride to
The small hive beetle can multiply rapidly. The beetles
invade bee colonies and lay eggs inside them. Both larvae
and adults feed on brood, pollen, wax, and honey, and
damage both the brood and honeycomb. When small hive
beetle infestations are heavy and even if the colony
is strong, queens will stop laying eggs and the bees
often leave the hive.
The Tropilaelaps mite has also been shown to cause high
mortality in affected bee colonies. The mites have also
been linked to bees suffering and leg and wing deformities.
These parasites can disrupt pollination so they also
pose a risk to the sustainability of the apiculture
industry as well as agriculture and the environment
in the European Union.
In July 2003, the Commission added these two parasites
to the list of notifiable diseases in the EU. This means
all beekeepers who suspect their colonies are infested
have to inform the appropriate authorities in their
Bees are imported into the EU to extend breeding stocks
and to improve the productivity of the
apiculture industry, but at the moment bees can enter
the EU in large consignments that are very difficult
to examine for the presence of parasites. That is the
reason for the ban on live bee imports adopted today.
The Commission's proposal was agreed with the EU member
states through the Standing Committee on the Food Chain
and Animal Health on November 4 and 5.
Under the new decision, imports of bees will be limited
to consignments containing a single queen bee with a
maximum of 20 accompanying attendants.
Imports will only be authorized from third countries
that have demonstrated the necessary veterinary competence
to certify that animals fulfil all criteria for import
into the European Union and where the small hive beetle
and the Tropilaelaps mite are notifiable diseases.
When the consignment arrives in the EU, the cages,
attendants, and any other material accompanying queens
from the third country of origin must also be sent to
a laboratory where they will all be examined for the
presence of the small hive beetle, their eggs or larvae
and signs of the Tropilaelaps mite.
Small colonies of bumble bees up to a maximum of 200
adults can still be authorized for import into the EU
if they have been bred and reared solely under environmentally
The small hive beetle infests hives in the United States.
Since its confirmed discovery in Florida in June 1998,
the beetle has spread to honey bee colonies throughout
the eastern U.S. and has been reported from several
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All