In September 2014 the presence of the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) in the European Union was confirmed for the first time, in two separate locations in the Reggio Calabria region of south-west Italy. Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority had already conducted a risk assessment on the entry of bee pests into the EU in March 2013, concluding that imports of bees and bee products raised significant concerns regarding the entry and spread of such pests as the small hive beetle across the EU.
Can the Commission explain what measures have been taken to contain this particular pest infestation of bee colonies in Italy? Does it envisage taking any further measures to ensure that the small hive beetle infestation does not spread any further?
The detection of the small hive beetle in Italy is being closely followed by the Commission. On its detection in early September, the Commission immediately organised technical assistance on site from the EU Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Bee Health. Specific training has been given by the EURL to the national reference laboratories. The EURL has published information to beekeepers — and further, extended guidance is being prepared for Member States — on the surveillance and control of this parasite.
Under the common agricultural policy (CAP), Member States can provide support to the beekeeping sector. The Union can co-finance actions with the Member States or Regions through national apiculture programmes and/or rural development measures such as risk prevention, risk management as insurance, mutual funds for pest infestations or income stabilisation tools.
To prevent the spread of the small hive beetle to other Member States and going beyond requirements of EU legislation on the intra-EU trade in live bees, the Italian authorities, in consultation with the Commission, have forbidden the exit of bee colonies and risky products from the affected areas. The authorities are also engaged in the destruction of infested hives, in intense surveillance and in the tracing of bee colonies that have been previously moved out of the restricted areas.
Following a positive vote by Member States on a draft at the Standing Committee, a decision strengthening the existing legal framework to prevent the further spread of the parasite will be soon adopted by the Commission. That Decision will be continuously adapted to the situation.