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Imports & exports

This page provides information and guidance on importing and exporting live honey and bumble bees.

For guidance on other products of bee origin, please see https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/guidance-on-importing-and-exporting-live-animals-or-animal-products and http://apha.defra.gov.uk/official-vets/Guidance/bip/iin/index.htm

The UK has left the EU, there are new rules from January 2021

The Guidance Notes for Importers provides details to English beekeepers on what you need to do to comply with the legislation and health certification requirements if you wish to import live bees after 31 December 2020.

The Welsh Government has produced guidance for imports of honey bees for Welsh beekeepers. 

The Scottish Bee Health Inspectorate has produced guidance for imports of honey bees for Scottish beekeepers.

You may also find it useful to refer to guidance on Gov.uk and the Border Operating Model, which provides information on the new processes.

For movements both ways between Northern Ireland and GB, guidance may be found in the Northern Ireland Protocol.

If you are planning to import or export bees it is your responsibility to follow these new rules and protect GB biosecurity. General Guidance on changes for businesses and citizens may be found at https://www.gov.uk/transition

FAQ - Imports

These questions only deal with Honey bees (Apis mellifera) and Bumble Bees.

What can I import from the EU?

  • Queen bees with up to 20 attendants.
  • Bumble bees

What can’t I import from the EU?

  • Package/Nucleus/Full Colony

Who must I notify if I want to import queens?

Which Commodity Code should I use?

  • 01064100

What information do I need to provide to the exporter?

  • The IPAFFS system issues a Unique Reference Number which should be included on the Health Certificate issued by the exporting country.

What Certification is required?

  • You must ensure that each consignment is accompanied by a health certificate which has been obtained from the relevant competent authority. A copy of this certificate needs to be uploaded to the IPAFFS system prior to the import. Model certificates can be downloaded from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bees-health-certificates

Do my Queens have to come into the country through a specific port of entry?

  • Imports from countries other than EU member states must enter via a border control point. Imports from EU member states will be checked at destination on a risk basis until the end of the 2024 beekeeping season

What happens if my documentation / certificate is missing or incorrect?

  • If any import is found to be non-compliant it will either be returned to the country of origin or destroyed. 

My imports were previously occasionally checked by a Bee Inspector so will this continue?

  • Yes, Bee Inspectors will continue to carry out risk-based checks at the place of import using the address provided in the IPAFFS notification process. If contacted by an Inspector, you must hold the consignment until it is released by the Inspector.

Can I use the queen cage provided by the exporter to introduce my Queens?

  • No, upon receipt the queen must be transferred to a new cage.
  • Send the original cages, attendant worker bees and other material that accompanied the queen bees from their country of origin to the addresses below within 5 days of receipt for examination for the presence of notifiable pests and diseases. Please include your name, address, contact number and the IPAFFS - Unique Reference Number with the parcel. Please ensure they are suitably packed for the postal service.
    • In England and Wales: RM 02G06 Fera Science Ltd York Biotech Campus, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ
    • In Scotland: Bee Health – Imports, SASA, Roddinglaw Road, Edinburgh, EH12 9FJ

Do the attendant bees need to be dead before I send them to be checked?

  • No, upon receipt your parcel will be frozen. Please ensure that they are securely packed and cannot escape.

Is there a charge for this service?

  • There are currently no charges for post-import checks.
  • When Bees arrive through a Border Control Post (BCP) then the costs of the checks carried out on imports of live animals from third countries are recovered from the importer under the provisions of the official control regulations. To find out how much the BCP checks cost, you should contact the relevant BCP. Contact details for the Border Control Posts can be found on this gov.uk webpage


If you intend to export bees from GB, you must ensure that the destination country permits imports from GB and that you can comply with their import conditions.  It is the exporter’s responsibility to do this.

For exports to any country, if you export your bees without the correct certification, the consignment may be rejected/destroyed by the destination country.  If the consignment required an inspection prior to export, we would not be able to issue a certificate retrospectively.

From January 2022, Export Health Certificates for exports to EU countries must be signed by an Official Veterinarian (OV).  For countries outside the EU, whether an OV is required to sign the EHC is determined by the authorities in the country of destination, so it is important for the exporter to check the requirements with them.

Exporting to EU countries

Only queen bees can be exported to EU countries.  To export queen bees, you must obtain an Export Health Certificate and arrange for it to be signed by an OV.  The OV must carry out a health inspection at the apiary before the certificate can be signed, and exporters should expect that there will be a charge for the services of an OV.  The health certificate template can be found on gov.uk, along with Notes for Guidance and information on how to contact an OV

The OV will also confirm whether a National Bee Unit inspector (England & Wales) or a Scottish Government Bee Inspector also need to be present to support the OV at the health inspection.  The OV can find information about how to contact a Bee Inspector in the Notes for Guidance. The contacts are:

The OV will arrange for a bee inspector to be present at the inspection.  There is no separate charge for a bee inspector to be present.

For exports to EU countries, a signed health certificate is valid for 10 days.

Sending bees to Northern Ireland

Only queen bees can be moved to Northern Ireland (NI) from GB.  Sending queens to Northern Ireland is treated as an export and requires an inspection at the apiary by an Official Veterinarian before the Export Health Certificate can be signed.  Please visit gov.uk to obtain an Export Health Certificate as described above.

Additionally, the exporter should follow the animal-specific process as set out in this DAERA guidance and guidance here on pre-notification to NI on TRACES NT.

We recommend that you also contact the NBU (England & Wales) or Scottish Government to confirm that the export is proceeding, once you have notified NI using TRACES NT. 

Exporting to non-EU countries

To export bees to a non-EU country, please complete the application to export form and return it to the NBU office.  The application form should be accompanied by the import conditions for the destination country.  Depending on the country’s requirements, you may also need to contact an Official Veterinarian (OV) who will determine whether the export health certificate can be signed.  Exporters should expect that there will be a charge for the services of an OV.  Please confirm to the NBU or Scottish Government when submitting the application form whether you have contacted an OV.

An NBU inspector (England & Wales) or Scottish Government Bee Inspector will also need to be present at the inspection, unless the OV confirms in advance that this is not required.  There is no separate charge for an inspector to be present.

If the country you are exporting to does not require an OV signature, an NBU or Scottish Government Bee Inspector will carry out the health assessment.  If clear of the specified pests and diseases, and if the apiary meets the health certification requirements, the health certificate can be signed.  The certificate must travel with the bees to the destination country.

It is important that you check whether the destination country considers a certificate valid only for a limited time, so that it does not expire before the export arrives.

Fireblight Disease – Movement Restrictions

If you are intending to move bees to an EU Member State, you should familiarise yourself with the restrictions that apply between 15 March and 30 June related to Fireblight disease (Erwinia amylovora), a serious notifiable disease of apples, pears and other related trees and shrubs in the Rosaceae family.

For more information see Regulation (EU) 2016/2031A list of the protected zones, as well as links to further guidance, can be found on the Plant Health Portal.

Further Information