The European Commission has adopted a decision to step up measures to protect the EU bee population from two exotic parasites.

The small hive beetle Aethina tumida and the parasitic mite Tropilaelaps have never been reported in the EU but, if introduced from third countries, they could severely endanger bee health, the apiculture industry and honey production, the Commission said.

To prevent the parasites from being introduced into the EU the measures now adopted will limit imports of both live honey bees and bumble bees and require imported bees to be examined for signs of the parasites when they arrive in the EU.

"These two parasites have had a devastating effect on the health of honey bees, the bee industry and the production of honey in affected third countries," said David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. "The EU needs simple import rules to make sure these bee parasites do not hitch a ride to Europe."