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 Europe."
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 Member States.
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
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
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
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 controlled conditions.
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 midwestern states.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights Reserved.