Bee Health - International Trade
EU legislation has a direct impact on animal health controls both for intra-Community trade as well as imports to the EU. The animal health and public health conditions governing intra-Community trade and imports into the Community of live animals and animal products are set down in a number of "vertical" (species or commodity-specific) Council Directives. The way in which Member States exercise control over movements of animals and animal products either between Member States, or into the Community from third countries, are laid down in "horizontal" (those which apply to all species) Council Directives relating to veterinary checks.
Council Directive 90/425/EEC covers veterinary and zootechnical checks applicable in intra-Community trade in certain live animals and products between Member States of the EU and eliminates the need for veterinary checks at frontiers on certain animals, including bees, and provides instead for a system of intensified checks at points of origin (e.g. for bees, the inspection of colonies) and spot checks at places of destination (documentary checks etc.). Council Directive 91/496/EEC covers EU trade with Third Countries.
The vertical and horizontal legislation is implemented in England by the Animals and Animal Products (Import and Export) (England) Regulations 2006.
For bees, Council Directive 92/65/EEC lists American foul brood, Aethina tumida (the small hive beetle), and the Tropilaelaps mite as notifiable diseases in the EU. The small hive beetle and tropilaelaps mite were added in 2003 by Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1398/2003 . The Directive lays down the provisions for intra-Community trade in bees. With reference to Directive 92/65/EEC, Commission Decision 2003/881/EC, as amended by Commission Decision 2005/60/EC together with Commission Decision 2006/855/EC, sets out the health certification requirements for the import of bees from third countries.
Import of Honey Bees and Bumble Bees
EC rules on intra-Community trade (i.e. trade within the European Community) in honey bees (Apis mellifera) and bumble bees (Bombus spp.) require only that each consignment is accompanied by an original health certificate issued by the relevant Member State authority confirming that it meets the requirements set out at Annex E, part 2 to Council Directive 92/65/EEC: specifically, that consignments of bees must come from an area free of American foul brood disease, the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) and Tropilaelaps mite. An original health certificate is required for each consignment and is valid for 10 days. The original certificate must accompany the consignment to the final destination, and be kept by the holding for at least 3 years.
An importer must give at least 24 hours notice in writing (including FAX) to the Defra Divisional Veterinary Officer with responsibility for the area in which the premises of destination is situated, of his intention to import from other Member States, giving the expected date/time of arrival and place of destination. A suggested proforma for notifications is available, which should be copied to the National Bee Unit. This will enable the NBU to carry out appropriate post-import veterinary checks at the place of destination.
Third Country Trade - Import Conditions
Rules concerning the importation of honey bees and bumble bees from third countries are set out in Commission Decision 2003/881/EC, as amended by Commission Decision 2005/60/EC and Commission Decision 2006/855. They are implemented in England by the Animals and Animal Products (Import and Export) (England) Regulations 2006. These include the requirement that:
- Imports of honey bees (Apis mellifera) and bumble bees (Bombus spp.) can only be allowed into the Community from those third countries listed in Part 1 of Annex II to Council Decision 79/542 provided that the 3 notifiable diseases of bees in the EU - American foul brood disease; Aethina tumida (small hive beetle); and Tropilaelaps spp (tropilaelaps mite) - are also confirmed as notifiable diseases throughout the exporting country, or an exporting region of a third country specifically identified in Part 2 of Annex III to Commission Decision 2003/881/EC.
- The bees must come from an area that is not affected by these notifiable diseases.
- The bees have been inspected and certified as being free of diseases, including notifiable diseases and infestations affecting bees.
- Single colonies of bumble bees (a maximum of 200 adult bees per container) are permitted provided thy have been bred under environmentally controlled conditions within recognised establishments
- Imports from the listed third countries must be restricted to consignments of queen bees and attendant workers only. Each queen bee must be contained in a single cage and accompanied by no more than 20 attendant worker bees.
- Imports of bee packages (a queen and up to 15,000 attendant worker bees) are prohibited, except from New Zealand under a special derogation to the EU/NZ Veterinary Agreement.
The following third countries are known to be able to comply with the EU requirements: Argentina, Australia, the US State of Hawaii and New Zealand. Hawaii has been given a special derogation by the EU to export to the Community in view of its high bee health status. Imports of bees from mainland USA to the European Community remain prohibited.
Importers wishing to import bees from any other third country listed in Council Decision 79/542 may check with Defra or the National Bee Unit, or alternatively with the relevant authority in the third country concerned, that it is able to comply with the requirements of the EU health certificate.
Importers must give at least 24 hours notice in writing (including FAX), of the anticipated date of arrival of the consignment to the Divisional Veterinary Manager of the Border Inspection Posts through which the consignment is to be imported (i.e. for bees coming into England, Heathrow or Gatwick). A notification form is used for this purpose. All notifications should be copied to Plant Health Division, Defra and the National Bee Unit at the addresses shown.
Third Country Trade - Post Import Controls
EC requirements for post import controls on consignments of bees imported from third countries are contained in Commission Decision 2003/881/EC (as amended). They are aimed at reducing the risk of introduction and spread of exotic bee pests, in particular the small hive beetle and tropilaelaps mites, both of which are notifiable. These post import controls are implemented in England by Article 11 of the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006.
On receipt of a consignment of queen honey bees from third countries, importers are required to transfer the imported queens to new cages before introducing them to local colonies and then send the cages, attendant worker bees and other material (e.g. packaging, food) that accompanied the queen bees from the third country of origin to a laboratory for examination for notifiable pests. For queen honey bees imported into England, all such items should be sent to the - Central Science Laboratory's National Bee Unit at Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ.
For imports of bumble bees, the owner or person in charge of the bees shall ensure that the container in which they were transported from the third country of origin, and all material that accompanied the bees are destroyed either during or immediately at the end of the lifespan of the imported colony.
General advice and information about importing honey bees to England is available from:
- Defra's Plant Health Division - Tel: 01904 455186/455182
- or the Central Science Laboratory's National Bee Unit Tel: 01904 462510.
Non-Native Species of Bumble Bees
Importers of bumble bees should note that under the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to release or allow to escape into the wild any non-native species of bumble bee (Bombus spp.) into the UK environment, unless the activity has been permitted under the authority of a licence.
Export of Honey Bees
Honey bees exported to another Member State or third country must be accompanied by an appropriate health certificate. This will be issued by the Central Science Laboratory's National Bee Unit once the bees to be exported have been inspected. Anyone wishing to export honey bees should contact the National Bee Unit for further advice.
Honey and Apiculture Products
The 'Balai' Directive 92/118/EEC (as amended) lays down the animal health and public health requirements governing trade in and imports into the European Community for a number of products of animal origin, including honey and apiculture products.
Honey and Royal Jelly
Honey and Royal Jelly intended for human consumption may only be imported provided it:
- comes from an approved third country
- comes from an EU approved plant
- is accompanied by appropriate documentation, i.e. commercial, animal and public health certification. Consignments may only be imported through a BIP. Further information is available on the Animal Health pages
Council Directive (EC) No. 1774/2002 lays down health rules concerning animal by-products not intended for human consumption. Annex VIII, Chapter IX lays down the requirements for apiculture products intended for use in apiculture.
In the case of imports, apiculture products must come from third countries listed in Part 1 of Annex II to Council Decision 79/542/EC. Apiculture product means honey, beeswax, royal jelly, propolis or pollen, not intended for human consumption or for industrial use. Further information is on the Animal Health pages.
As certification may be required by the importing country's authority, advice and information about the export of honey and apiculture products can be found on the Animal Health and Welfare pages of Defra's website.
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Page last modified:
8 April 2008
Page published: 10 March 2005