The small hive beetle (SHB), a pest affecting honeybees, bumblebees and stingless bees that has been present in southern Italy since at least September 2014, could survive in all EU Member States and spread rapidly over large distances if infested hives are moved. Restrictions on the movement of honey bees, bumblebees and commodities from infested to non-infested areas should therefore be maintained to prevent the pest spreading further in the EU. These are some of the findings of a Scientific Opinion published by EFSA today.
Animal health experts constructed two mathematical models to predict the potential spread of SHB from infested to non-infested areas. These showed that it would take more than 100 years for the SHB to move naturally from Calabria to Abruzzo (around 250 km), but that movement of infested hives would accelerate the process significantly.
EFSA also assessed risk-mitigating factors that could be effective in ensuring safe intra-EU trade of live bees, apiculture products and by-products. The main conclusions were:
- detection of SHB by visual inspection has been found to be highly effective and feasible for consignments of queen bees;
- use of fine mesh (with a maximum 2mm pore size) to avoid contamination during transport is highly effective for consignments of bees, bee products to be used in apiculture, non-extracted comb honey and used beekeeping equipment;
- freezing, heating and desiccation of bee products and used equipment are highly effective at reducing the risk of SHB transmission;
- beekeepers should keep records of movements of their hives to facilitate investigation of outbreaks.
For apiaries, risk-mitigating measures that are effective for controlling SHB in an infested area where eradication is no longer the objective include:
- good hive hygiene and beekeeping practices;
- rigorous visual inspection, which can identify not only damage caused by the pest, but also the pest in its different life stages;
- soil treatment with pyrethroid insecticides. This should be applied only in the event of comb damage and when their use in the respective Member State is authorised. Exposure of non-target species to pyrethroids should be avoided.
SHB was first detected in Calabria in September 2014 and in Sicily a few weeks later. These areas are a major source of queen bees that are shipped to many parts of the EU.
Italy has implemented regional and national measures to contain, survey and if possible to eradicate SHB. This involves destruction of infected apiaries and restriction of movement of colonies and certain apiculture products, by-products and beekeeping equipment. The European Commission has also imposed restrictions on intra-EU trade. In particular, colonies and queens must not leave restricted areas.
New SHB detections in Calabria in September and October 2015 indicate that the infestation has not yet been eradicated.