The Sunday Telegraph

Beekeepers seek clampdown amid fears African beetles arrive in UK via Northern Ireland

- By Olivia Rudgard ENVIRONMEN­T CORRESPOND­ENT

AFRICAN beetles that are killing off European bees could sneak into Britain via Northern Ireland while it remains part of the EU’s customs territory, beekeepers fear.

Keepers are petitionin­g for a ban on imports amid fears that the devastatin­g Small Hive Beetle could arrive in Britain via packages of thousands of bees being routed through the region.

Small Hive Beetles are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa but have spread around the world, including to the US and Australia, and since 2014, Calabria, Italy.

Within two years of discovery in the US, the beetles destroyed at least 20,000 colonies. Its larvae tunnel through comb and defecate in honey, causing colonies to collapse. Since Brexit the import of honey bee colonies from the EU has been banned, though queen bees are still allowed.

But packages are still coming into the country via Northern Ireland. In order to protest the peace process, there are hardly any checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It is not known whether the bees come directly into Northern Ireland from Italy, or arrive in Ireland and move over the invisible border.

Anne Rowberry, chair of the British Beekeepers’ Associatio­n, said: “It will be devastatin­g if we have small hive beetle over here. We’re desperate that it doesn’t get into the country.”

Before the UK left the EU, the majority of bees from EU countries came into England and Wales and were subject to a system of checks. A spokesman for Defra said: “It is not permitted to export bees from the exclusion zone in Italy where small hive beetle is present, either to GB or Northern Ireland.”

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