A new threat for our beehives: after having put the beekeepers of the United States and eastern Australia to the test, Aethina tumida, a bee beetle of South African origin, entered Italy, violating the defense mechanism put in place by the European Union to protect local pollinators.

the affected area. In September 2014 the presence of the insect was confirmed in Gioia Tauro (Calabria), in an area of ​​20 km which was promptly reached and isolated by the veterinary police services of the Italian Ministry of Health, in agreement with the European and Calabrian authorities and with the full cooperation of the FAI-Italian Beekeepers Federation.

enemy … dependent. "The Aethina tumida lives on the bees inside the hive, " explains Raffaele Cirone, FAI President, the Italian Beekeepers Federation "acts as a" rodent "and feeds on honeycombs, wax and all it finds. in the "house" of the bees, finding the ideal conditions in terms of food, temperature and humidity to reproduce ". The contaminated honey becomes unusable while the hive, destroyed, is colonized by the larvae. A female of Aethina tumida can lay, in its life cycle, even 2 thousand eggs.

A bee on 4. "The parasite brings bee families to collapse, destroying 25-30% of the beekeeping heritage (data refer to industrial beekeeping in the United States, already affected by the phenomenon). All this adds up to an already critical situation for Italian and European beekeeping, already affected by the beehive depopulation syndrome and other parasites such as the Varroa mite ».

The responsibles. The journey that allowed Aethina tumida to enter our country has yet to be rebuilt. "The ban on importing bees from third countries, in force throughout the European Union, has thus been violated, " said Cirone. Commercial interests have favored the entry into our territory of a dangerous guest who is putting the entire Italian beekeeping sector at risk.

A necessary evil. The parasite is eradicated by killing and destruction by fire. A huge sacrifice for those who live of this activity, but which must be done to prevent the beetle from spreading. "It is not a question of making the whole land burned, " explains Cirone. "In the red zone about 3300 hives have been destroyed on the 11-12 thousand present. That of Calabria is also an area with a high density of beekeeping populations ".

Reference box. For those forced to destroy their own combs, compensation is provided, but is delaying in coming for bureaucratic reasons. Unfortunately «even if most of the local beekeepers have responded to our appeal, at the moment we are in the midst of a heated debate between those who require a greater effort for eradication and those who, instead, claim the endemicity of the parasite to escape to the application of sanitary measures, thus discharging the damages on the totality of the bee farmers, »explains Cirone.

Millions in smoke. "Eradication is the only way. We cannot think of living with this parasite. We must think of the common interest ". Before it is too late: the spread of the parasite on a national scale would be catastrophic.

"The damage of 1.5 million euros, so far borne by the beekeepers who destroyed the infested hives - reads a press release from the FAI - is nothing compared to the 50 million euros per year that the entire sector could suffer with the loss of beehives, queen bees and non-production of honey, and the resulting damage to European beekeeping is estimated to be at least 500 million euros a year ".