Beetle fears freeze Italian bee imports

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Borders beekeepers are being warned to look out for a new pest, the Small Hive Beetle (SHB), which has caused great damage to hives in America and Australia after spreading from its original home in sub-Saharan Africa.

In September 2014 it was discovered in southern Italy and there are fears that it will reach the UK, most likely on bees sold to beekeepers.

Small Hive Beetle on a honeycomb

Small Hive Beetle on a honeycomb

Although there are restrictions in place on exporting bees from the infested region in Italy, there is a significant risk that the pest may have already moved out of this area on bees moved for honey crops or for trade.

The beetle, which pupates in soil, can destroy comb, brood and stores, and has been known to fly several kilometres to seek out bee hives.

Past experience with bee pests suggests that they may not be detected for a significant period after they are moved to a new area.

Bron Wright, president of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, said: “In countries to which it has already spread, SHB has become a significant pest to honey bee colonies. Its discovery in south west Italy is of enormous concern to beekeepers in Scotland, since substantial numbers of packaged bees and queens are annually imported into the UK from Italy.

“Preventing this pest from entering the UK is of the utmost importance.”

Gavin Ramsay, Bee Health Officer for the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association added: “We urgently ask beekeepers not to import bees and not to buy bees from those who import them, at least until the spread of this pest is better known.

“Seeking bees bred from local stock or increasing your stock from your own bees is particularly important during this time of uncertainty over the risks of buying imported stock.”

Likely pathways into the Scottish Borders

z Honeybee imports, packages & queens

z Importation of beeswax & honey in drums

z Possible shipment with fruit or plant containers with soil

WHAT CAN BEEKEEPERS DO?

z Do not import bees or buy imported stock as spread in Europe is uncertain

z Only source bees locally

z Be vigilant at the hive

z Keep strong colonies

z Stay up-to-date with news of spread

z Report any suspicions to the Scottish Government by emailing BeesMailbox@scotland.gsi.gov.uk