National Reference Centre / FAO Reference Centre for Beekeeping

National reference laboratory for beekeeping

The IZSVe has been active in beekeeping since the 1970s, particularly, in the diagnosis, prevention and control of honey bee diseases. The detection and spread of the Varroa mite throughout Italy was of particular importance in the IZSVe’s becoming a reference laboratory; the IZSVe developed integrated programmes for the control of Varroa destructor infestation, in collaboration with national research institutes in both Italy and other countries.

In 1995, the IZSVe was appointed the Beekeeping Centre of the Veneto Region (Italy). The Centre has also been active in evaluating the quality of honey and other honey bee products and in developing new analytical methods. Another important activity is the detection of residues of veterinary medicines and residues from agriculture and the environment in honey.

Since 1999, the Centre has been accredited by SINAL, Italy’s national laboratory-accreditation body, which verified the ability to conduct the tests for which accreditation was granted, after having verified compliance with the requirements of standard EN ISO/IEC 17025.

In 2003 the IZSVe was appointed the National Reference Centre for Beekeeping by the Italian Ministry of Health, and in 2018 also as the National reference laboratory for honey bee health.

In 2019 the IZSVe was appointed as FAO Reference Centre for Apiculture, Health and Biosecurity (jointly with the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Lazio e Toscana).

Activities and servicesEpidemiological situationContacts

Activities and services

The National reference centre for beekeeping currently performs more than 50 different diagnostic and analytical tests for evaluating problems related to beekeeping and beekeeping products. The methods used for the diagnosis of honey bee diseases are those indicated in the “Manual of Standards for Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals”, edited by OIE/WOAH (7th ed., 2012).

The analytical methods used for determining physicochemical and bacteriological parameters and for residue analysis are regulated (D.M. 25/07/2003) or developed and validated in the laboratory, in accordance with standard UNI EN ISO 17025. Most methods are accredited.

Activities related to honey bee diseases and the environment
  • diagnosis of honey bee diseases
  • development of analytical methods for honey bee diseases
  • development of methods and strategies for controlling varroosis, mainly based on the use of acaricides of mild impact on honey bees and their products (IPM=Integrated Pest management)
  • evaluation of prophylactic strategies against American foulbrood, based on the use of antimicrobial substances of natural origin and other methods of prevention
  • monitoring of honey bee diseases throughout Italy
  • biomonitoring of environmental pollution based on honey bees and their products
  • reference activities for the Ministry of Health regarding honey bee diseases and beehive-product control
  • applied research on the control of honey bee diseases, in collaboration with national and international institutions
  • collaboration with the European Union Reference Laboratory for honey bee health
Activities related to beehive products
  • evaluation of honey quality (physicochemical and microbiological analyses)
  • development of methods for evaluating honey quality
  • testing of honey and other beehive products for residues of veterinary medicines, pesticides, and heavy metals
  • education and training initiatives for beekeepers and veterinary practitioners as well as official veterinarians
  • technical support to private beekeepers, beekeeping associations and the honey-production industry for the application of the HACCP system to honey production.
Diagnostic capabilities

Honey bee diseases sector

  • Culture methods for Paenibacillus larvae and Melissococcus plutonius isolation
  • Microscopic analysis for Nosema spores identification
  • Microscopic analysis for Acarapis woodi detection
  • Varroa destructor, small hive beetle (SHB), Aethina tumida and mite Tropilaelaps spp identificationReal time RT-PCR and RT-PCR for honey bee viruses detection (DWV, SBV, BQCV, ABPV, CBPV, IAPV and KBV)
  • PCR and sequencing for Nosema species identification (Nosema apis/Nosema ceranae)
  • PCR for Paenibacillus larvae and Melissococcus plutonius

Chemistry sector

  • High performance liquid chromatography with mass detector, fluorimetric detector, diode array detector, refractive index detector to determine residues and other chemical substances
  • Gas chromatography with mass detector, electron capture detector, flame ionization detector to determine residues and other chemical substances
  • Anodic stripping voltammetry to determine heavy metals

Epidemiological situation


  • Varroa destructor is probably the most devastating parasite of honey bees causing damages to both the brood and the adults. Furthermore, associated viruses such as Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV) relevantly contribute to further damage the colony.
  • American foulbrood (brood disease) caused by Paenibacillus larvae is still a threat to honey bee colonies, while to a significantly less extent European foul brood (also brood disease) due to Melissococcus plutonius.
  • Nosema ceranae seems to have replaced N. apis in the whole country. Its true direct and indirect impact on honey bee health is still matter of investigation. Its presence in Italy was firstly published in 2007, the oldest positive honey bee sample was dated 1993, in agreement with the findings of the other European countries.
  • Acarapis woodi is no longer detected.
  • Tropilaelaps spp. is still exotic to Europe. (ANSES )
  • The small hive beetle (SHB) Aethina tumida is present in South Italy since november 2014.


The monitoring activities carried out in recent years on samples from the entire national territory have shown that the presence of pesticides on live honey bees amounted to about 8%. In cases of reported abnormal mortality the presence of residues of pesticides in dead bees rises to about 65%. The investigations carried out on beebread demonstrated a contamination due to pesticides in about 27% of cases.


  • ANSES – Morphological identification of Tropilaelaps spp. (adult form) (WOAH method) | PDF
  • American Foulbrood Leaflet | PDF


Director of the National Reference Centre for Beekeeping
Franco Mutinelli
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Tel.: +39 049 8084261

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