From the Blue\White Corner – by Caroline McDonald

From the Blue\White Corner – by Caroline McDonald

Buyer beware

Something caught my eye when I read the recent information update from DAFM. My attention was drawn to the part where the rules and regulations regarding the importation of Apis mellifera and Bumble bees.

To start, all imports of bees from other EU states must be notified to Backweston, DAFM. 

The imported bees must have a health certificate from the relevant authority in the country of origin. They must come from a disease –free area. This disease- free environmental status must be monitored by the appropriate authority. There is much fine print in assuring that this disease-free status is ascertained.

They must originate from “an area of at least 100km radius which is not the subject of any restrictions”…

The original location must be free from the small hive beetle (Aethina tumidia) and Tropilaelaps mite (Tropilaelaps spp.)

There are many more stipulations involving radius distances away from where the import originated. I see “30km distance from the limits of a protection zone” and ‘20km in a radius around confirmed cases”.  

Following from this there is reference to “95% confidence of detecting Small Hive Beetle if at least 2% of hives were infested”.

I’m not blinding you with figures just because I can but because it is written in the directive from DAFM. This directive must be followed and obeyed when importing bees. I feel that with all these figures of radial distances and percentages there can be slippage and if an eye goes off the ball some contamination can enter our resident bee population. This leads to problems for the beekeeper and perhaps others.

There are non-EU countries which border the EU at which there may be light surveillance for the transfer of an animal as small as a bee. I remember walking in the mountains of an EU country and tipping my foot into a non-EU country, because I could. There was no border post along this elevated portion of the frontier. Don’t tell anyone but I had no visa for said country!

Unknown unknowns

I remember Secretary Rumsfeld referring to “known unknowns and unknown unknowns” during the Gulf War and thinking that it was rather amusing (if anything could amuse during that conflict). 

I’m reminded of this idea of unknown unknowns with regard to importing honey bees. At the moment one can check for AFB and EFB, Varroa and look for Hive beetle eggs or larvae and the Tropilaelaps mite. However bees could be carrying diseases of which we do not know-the unknown unknowns. 


Bees can carry Fireblight on their body parts. Fireblight is not a disease which affects bees but the apple-grower will not thank you (or the bee) for it. It is a bacterial disease which damages apple trees and others of the Rosacea family. We know about Fireblight now but what else could the imported bee carry which is unknown to us at the moment? This unknown may be discovered later when the damage becomes evident and there is a big problem to be solved. 

The point that I’m making here is that we must consider very, very carefully before we bring bees from outside onto this island. Our borders have opened with EU legislation but just because we can import does not imply that we should import from far and wide.

In conclusion I’d encourage beekeepers to read the rules relating to importation of bees into Ireland. It is not necessarily that someone is intending to import but it informs us of what’s possible and the implications of these regulations. The implications are not only for the beekeeper but also the environment and ecosystem as a whole unit.