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Published on 08/10/2018

No identification of SHB in France following the queen import from Argentina in April 2018

A suspicion of introduction of the small hive beetle (SHB) (Aethina tumida) through honey bee queen imports from Argentina was notified in France in April 2018. Following laboratory analyses, (see the Commission Regulation EU 206/2010) eggs suspected to be of A. tumida were indeed detected in the cages. Cages, accompanying attendants and packages were sent to the French National Reference Laboratory (NRL) at Anses Sophia Antipolis for identification.

Identification of SHB species being not feasible on eggs, molecular analyses were conducted. Results for identification of A. tumida and A. mellifera were not conclusive due to the low quantity of genetic material available. Given the uncertainty of this suspicion and in order to prevent any risk, surveillance measures were put in place by the Directorate General for Food (DGAL), in the apiaries where queens were introduced and in the apiaries at the importer premises (23 apiaries in total); even though the expert opinion concluded to a nil to nearly nil probability of establishment of SHB in a French apiary (see in the references below the memorandum from the DGAL 07 May 2018 and ANSES scientific opinion of 3 May 2018). In all, 25 inspections were conducted on 916 colonies. Awareness campaigns were conducted intended for beekeeping organisations on the risk of introduction of SHB from risk areas and on the importance of queen cages and accompanying attendants’ control.

It has to be noted that the importer had respected the Commission Regulation for import of bee queens from Third Countries. Indeed queens were transferred to new cages with new accompanying attendants before being introduced in new colonies. These actions had enabled to greatly reduce the risk of introduction.

The French authorities took charge of this suspicion as soon as it was notified. The alert system set up in France showed its efficiency.

The conclusions of all the inspections conducted in the apiaries where queens were introduced were satisfactory, meaning no clinical signs of SHB infestation.

Subsequently, further analyses were conducted by the NRL to conclude on the nature of the eggs that were detected. A new molecular tool was used to amplify a mitochondrial gene (the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene). DNA was then sequenced. The results showed 99 % of identity of the sequences of the suspect sample with the sequence of the COI gene of Apis mellifera. The eggs found in queen cages were Apis mellifera’s eggs.

Following this new information as well as the satisfactory results of the inspections, the surveillance measures set up by the DGAl were lifted at the end of July 2018.