There are significant amounts and diverse types of transboundary shipments of live insects for pollination, pest management, industrial processes, research, and other uses. The range of purposes and parties involved in this trade makes data collection and analysis of this trade difficult. The OIE and Collectif TIS, a French think tank, carried out a stakeholder survey to better understand the nature of live insect (and related arthropod) trade and potential challenges to safety and efficiency. Target respondents had experience in the areas of biocontrol, sterile insect technique, entomological research, and regulatory affairs. Although the survey was sent globally, the perimeter of answers was unintentionally biased towards Europe and European-related trade. Interest in Europe is high, as this region is developing a comprehensive framework to promote the use of beneficial insects to replace pesticides.
The survey also explored knowledge and relevance of some international agreements on movement and risk management of beneficial or invasive insects, benefits sharing, and liability. Knowledge of the various regulations was generally poor, and those responding to the questionnaire highlighted a perceived lack of clarity regarding live insect shipments in existing international regulations and guidelines. Almost two thirds of the participants reported reluctance by couriers and carriers to accept live insects for shipment, and three quarters described occasional to systematic delays or rerouting that resulted in reduction in quality or viability. As a result, some respondents reported that they hand-carry live insects, mostly when dealing with small quantities.
Respondents described being directly involved in trade covering 70 species of live insects and ticks being transported amongst 37 countries, with volumes that ranged from less than ten to over a million insects per shipment. Of these insects, 30% were potential vectors of pathogens to humans or animals, 42% were potential plant pest species (including, some used for biocontrol), and 17% were classical biocontrol agents. The results of this survey begin to define the current scope, scale, and issues for those exporting, carrying, importing, regulating, or otherwise involved in shipping live insects and ticks across political boundaries; the survey seeks to attract support from regulatory bodies and shipping operators to facilitate safety, efficiency, and consistency in this underdeveloped sector.