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Re: [Pollinator] invasive bee in Oz

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  • Peter Bernhardt
    Dear David: I m sending this article to some Australian colleagues. It will make them laugh. The fact is that feral bees became a problem before the
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 10, 2011
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      Dear David:

      I'm sending this article to some Australian colleagues.  It will make them laugh.  The fact is that feral bees became a problem before the introduction of Asian Apis (cerana)?  Bombus is now widespread in Tasmania (introduced accidentally from New Zealand).  There are huge, feral populations of A. mellifera all over Australia proper.  My last trip to Western Australia came as a real shock as these feral colonies swarmed from August - October and we found swarms at several of our field sites.  You could hear them before you saw them.  One site at the edge of the Darling Ranges was regenerating following a bush fire and good old A. mellifera swarmed on burned, soot encrusted shrub stems only a few centimeters about the crust of the blackened soil.  Some people at the research lab at the Botanic Garden in Perth were complaining that the sheer number of A. mellifera depressed the visits of native pollinators (thynnid wasps, native bees, nectariferous birds) to native plants in bloom. You can't leave hives in national parks anymore but you can certainly leave your hives outside the park's perimeter, and the beekeepers do so, by the hundreds!  

      No one will do anything about this problem, in large part, because honeybee products remain a major export and honeybees are essential to crop pollination within Australia as native bees and honeyeaters birds aren't terribly interested in Eurasian cultigens in bloom.  A quarter of a century ago a friend, who shall remain nameless, did serious research on the topic, published papers in reviewed journals and wrote some popular articles.  The local beekeepers became extremely hostile and I can't even mention what one many tried to do to him (I keep my promises).     

      Trust me, if the Australian beekeepers want the Asian species eradicated the government will try to comply because, in large part, the commercial honeybee is the only bee most Australians know.  Thanks to a popular book on plant fossils "The Browning of Australia" many Australians believe the continent's flora evolved in the absence of native bees.  There's the apocryphal story about the Eurasian bugloss species (Echium vulgare) that has become a pest on sheep and cattle rangelands.  Ranchers call it Paterson's curse (after the jerk who introduced it).  Beekeepers call it Salvation Jane.  That weed still occurs extensively through eastern Australia.


      On Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 9:25 PM, David Inouye <inouye@...> wrote:

      Fears Asian bee is Australia's next cane toad PDF Print E-mail [] []
      Friday, 04 March 2011 17:29

      The aggressive and invasive Asian honey bee could become as bad a pest in Australia as the cane toad, a senator warned Wednesday, adding that the insect could threaten the country's food supply.

      The cane toad, a prolific breeder which secretes a toxin that can kill pets and wildlife, has spread widely in tropical Australia since being introduced to kill beetles in the 1930s, devouring insects, bird's eggs and native species such as the quoll, a cat-like marsupial.

      Greens Senator Christine Milne said the bee industry was at risk from an incursion of Apis cerana in the northeastern city of Cairns which was first detected in 2007.

      "It is the 21st century equivalent of the cane toad and the bee keepers have been saying that for some time," Milne told reporters, describing the pest as "a cane toad with wings".

      The Australian bee industry has urged the eradication of the Asian species, which undermines European honey bee populations by competing for food, robbing hives and transmitting disease and parasites.

      The industry fears that if the Asian bee becomes established it will destroy European honey bee populations, which are kept in hives and transported around the country to pollinate crops.

      Because the Asian bee cannot be kept in boxes, it is not suitable for such pollination techniques.

      But government officials are likely to abandon an attempt to wipe out the Asian species at the end of April after saying it was "no longer technically feasible to achieve eradication".

      Sustainability Minister Tony Burke said the decision by the Asian honey bee management group was based on scientific research.

      "But (it) does not amount to a decision that there will not be continued engagement in other areas other than eradication in terms of control," he told parliament.

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