Southern Australia agricultural industry under threat from invasive Asian bee species

July 13, 2011AUSTRALIA – The smaller Asian bees (pictured right)  have destroyed the honey industry in every country they’ve invaded – and are threatening us. The Asian bee incursion, currently confined to Cairns, could pose a massive threat to South Australia, CSIRO entomology expert Denis Anderson has warned. The Java strain of the Asian honey bee was first detected in a ship mast in a Cairns dry dock in 2007. The species is believed to be contained within a 50km radius of Cairns, although swarms have been found in Innisfail and the Atherton Tablelands. The Asian bee competes with the European bee for pollen and steals their nectar, causing many struggling beekeepers to go bankrupt. Australia’s honey industry is worth about $80m annually. Dr Anderson said while the damage the bees could do to the beekeeping industry was calculable, though the environmental damage could not be measured. “How do you cost environmental damage?” he said. “The loss of a species; how do you calculate the cost of that?” Following the bees’ arrival in the Solomon Islands in 2003, European honeybee hives reduced from 2000 in the year 2000, to five in 2008. In Papua New Guinea, honey production had dropped by about 40 per cent since the bees’ introduction. The Asian bees can nest in tiny openings and have been known to build hives in letterboxes and even tool boxes. “We have found nine separate colonies in one home in the Solomon Islands,” Dr Anderson said. “They’re a real pest.” He said the Asian bee was able to survive in most climates – including South Australia’s – and would thrive in the Adelaide Hills. “The conditions in that area would be ideal,” Dr Anderson said. The Asian bee can travel almost 110km per year unassisted, and in just eight years colonized the entire country of Papua New Guinea. Because of the swarming nature of the Asian bee, experts warn it could easily be accidentally transported interstate. Kangaroo Island is of particular concern, being the only place in the world where the pure Ligurian strain of honey bee lives. Leigh Duffield, owner of Nangkita Apiarist in Mount Compass, said the impact of the Asian bee had more wide-reaching consequences than just the bee industry. “Pollination contributions to the Australian environment is in excess of $5 billion and most of the fruits and vegetables we require for the European diet we’re accustomed to are derived from bee pollination,” Mr. Duffield said. With the spread of the Asian bee, quarantine measures will need to be drastically increased around the country – the cost of which would be enormous, Dr Anderson said. “Once this bee gets established here and starts to spread, all our honey bee exports will die,” he said. “There will be none. And no country will want to take exports of any kind that might have an Asian bee in it.” –Adelaide Now
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4 Responses to Southern Australia agricultural industry under threat from invasive Asian bee species

  1. These invasive species problems are going on around the world, from zebra mussels to asian beetles — now bees — and are the direct result of global trade in agricultural products. We need to end global food and reinstate LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTION and CONSUMPTION!! We need to bring back small-scale, sustainable, humane, and socially responsible farms!! NAFTA virtually killed the family farm in the United States. “Free trade” is not for the good of people — its for the good of transnational corporations to cheapen labor and increase the bottom line. All this “profit” is in the hands of a few CEOs and not in the hands of the people working the land.

    All the corporations and financiers are saying that “the market” will sort it all out. Well, people– WE ARE THE MARKET!!! Vote with your dollar. BUY LOCAL FOOD AT ALL COSTS! Support local agriculture — research local food options in your community and start the transition away from GMO and Corporate Agriculture — and the large grocery store system. Its broken and it is killing our planet.

    Watch any of these documentary films for more on this issue (they can all be streamed instantly from Netflix):
    Broken Limbs
    Fed Up!
    Food, Inc.
    Deconstructing Supper
    What’s on Your Plate?
    Blue Gold

    and there are many others….


  2. RainMan says:

    ‘When the bees die, the planet has one year to live’, quote from Albert Einstien.


  3. Benao says:

    Bees rely on Magnetic north to navigate with. If you shift the hive a few hundred metres after the worker bees have gone out to find pollen they will get lost on the way home and not find the hive.

    Magnetic North is shifting at an ever increasing rate. Last year it moved 40 kilometres.towards Russia. It doesn’t move in a smooth shift. It can move more in one day or one hour than another.
    Magnetic North can move a couple of hundred metres suddenly. If the move happens while the worker bees are out finding pollen then they can get lost and not find their hive again. This is thought to be one of the main reasons for recent bee die off.

    There are teams going around the top of Queensland Australia hunting down the Asian bees. Unfortunately they are fighting a losing battle. There is some school of thought that the bee mite parasite on the Asian bees doesn’t affect the local bees as much.

    Australian bees have been exported to the U.S. to supplement the hives there – that have died off.


  4. Sybil says:

    Actually, the Asian honeybee (apis cerana) is not a pest at all. It is easy to keep, not aggressive and good at pollinating. The only drawback to the “industry” is that doesn’t yield quite as much honey as the Western honeybee, and honey can be harvested only in spring and autumn. (If harvested in summer, the bees are likely to swarm.) But its honey is of high quality. And contrary to the Western honeybee, it is not killed by the Varroa mite!

    Here is a website with more information:

    On another note, the US model of a “pollination industry” where bees are being driven around in huge trucks all the time to pollinate monocultures of plants, has been found to put a lot of stress on the bees, as it is completely against their natural way of life. Bees naturally live in stationary stocks where they know which plants grow around them, and they visit a great variety of plants in bloom to collect the honey. It makes them weak and sick to be forced to readapt to new surroundings every 3 weeks and to have to feed on herbicide-sprayed plants of a small range of species only.

    A “home industry” approach with many Asian honeybee stocks on every farm to provide pollination and honey might be the best solution.


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