Discovery of Asian bees prompts biosecurity warning

THE discovery of Asian bees at Port Kembla has prompted a warning for people to be on the lookout.
THE discovery of Asian bees at Port Kembla has prompted a warning for people to be on the lookout.

THE identification of Asian honey bees at a port in Kurnell is a timely reminder to the community to be on the lookout for this potentially devastating pest.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Technical Specialist Bees, Dr Doug Somerville, said the bees were found on a bulk carrier and have now been destroyed by Commonwealth biosecurity officials.

"The Asian honey bee poses a significant risk to the State's apiarists and bee industry," Dr Somerville said.

"Asian bees are also potential hosts of parasites and disease, including varroa mites, which are considered the most damaging parasite of honey bees in the world.

"NSW has so far kept this pest at bay and it's critical people remain vigilant and on the look out for unusual looking bees or swarms of bees.

"Asian honey bees are easily identified by a distinct stripy abdomen and are much smaller than the commonly-found honey bee."

Dr Somerville said the invasive pest impacts populations of European honey bees by competing for floral resources, robbing managed bee hives and transmitting disease.

"The bee can also be a major pest in urban areas by establishing nests and by its aggressive stinging behaviour," he said.

Dr Somerville said the bees were found on a bulk carrier, which sailed from Singapore and was ported at Kurnell.

"The varroa mites attached to the bees are believed to be the Varroa jacobsoni species, not the Varroa destructor," he said.

"The bees were destroyed by a professional pest controller with beekeeping experience and samples have been sent for further diagnostic work.

"Authorities are confident that all bees have been destroyed and no swarms have escaped."

About the Asian honey bee:

  •  Asian bees are considered as the most significant pest and competitor for resources of managed honey bees.
  • There have been two incursions of Asian bees into northern Australia where they have established colonies.
  • Asian bees have a very distinct stripy abdomen. The overall size of Asian bees is approximately two-thirds the size of honey bees.

People should report any unusual sightings of bees, along with any photos to: DPI Technical Specialist Bees, Doug Somerville ( or 02 4828 6619)

Topics:  biosecurity, varroa bee mite, varroa mite

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