Training of beekeepers and veterinarians in the European Union

4 July 2013    
Gaston Franco (PPE) 

According to the economic audit of the French beekeeping sector carried out by FranceAgriMer, amateurs account for 96% of all beekeepers in France. At EU level the figure is 97% (some 580 000 amateurs out of 600 000 beekeepers).

However, some beekeepers are claiming that poor practices related to amateurism are among the causes of high bee mortality. Thus, within the same area some hives regularly suffer losses as high as 50%, while the losses of other beekeepers remain within acceptable proportions. This is allegedly caused by differing practices in terms of over-wintering, parasite treatment, feeding, etc.

By way of example, the Varroa mite, which is one of the most significant causes of bee mortality, has to be dealt with using a specific treatment. Preventive treatments also need to be applied. However, these treatments are very tricky to use. In most cases, without proper training, a beekeeper — or a veterinarian — is unable to treat his hives correctly. Contaminated hives then risk contaminating their neighbours.

One of the most effective ways of eliminating high bee mortality would therefore be to promote good practice and to improve the training of European beekeepers, particularly amateur beekeepers, and of vets. Such training would also make it easier for young beekeepers to become established.

What is the Commission’s view on the links between training, good beekeeping practice and high bee mortality?

Do training programmes, or funding for training and for the creation of guides to good practice, exist, or will they be put in place for European beekeepers and vets? 

7 August 2013    
Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

In the communication to the European Parliament and the Council on honeybee health(1), the Commission stressed that bee mortalities are caused by a number of factors, including the improper management of the hives. The Commission recommended Member States and beekeepers' organisations to take action on this issue and, in particular, to ensure training.

Member States may draw up national apiculture programmes that may include under technical assistance measures, training of beekeepers, and development and propagation of good beekeeping practices. The programmes can be co-financed by the EU in accordance with Article 108 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007(2). 27 Member States included technical assistance measures in their national apiculture programmes for the period 2014-2016.

The Commission also provides trainings on bee health to official veterinarians in the framework of the ‘Better Training for Safer Food’ initiative. Between 2010 and 2012, a total of five workshops were organised gathering approximately 160 participants. Two further workshops are scheduled in 2013 and three in 2014-15.

(2)    Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 of 22 October 2007 establishing a common organisation of agricultural markets and on specific provisions for certain agricultural products (Single CMO Regulation) (OJ L 299, 16.11.2007, p. 1).