The Senate Committee assessing the risks and opportunities associated with managing bumble bees in Tasmania for crop pollination has just concluded, with the recommendation that trials proceed, and that the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act that currently prohibits their management be amended:
For some background on this subject, go to: https://wildpollinatorcount.com/2016/02/22/a-pollination-predicament-bumble-bees-and-their-presence-in-tasmania/
I’m very happy to announce that after many requests for Bee Aware Brisbane t-shirts over the years, I have finally made some up and am selling them through my Etsy online store https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/BeesTeesBrisbane Just in time for Christmas! At this stage it is just a limited number, until I get an idea of the likely demand. If we sell out, we’ll get some more up asap. We will be shipping all online orders via AusPost within 1–3 days of order. Please be very careful with sizes as we have made each size a different item in the store (have a look at the size chart images to get an idea of which size is suitable for you). Kids shirts on their way in the next few days. We hope you enjoy!
In the last nine years three different Asian honey bee species have arrived in Australia at various times: Apis dorsata (giant Asian honey bee), Apis cerana (Asiatic honey bee), and Apis florea (dwarf honey bee). All are very cool bees in their native range (particularly cute little Apis florea), but we don’t want them here in Australia because of potential threats to native biodiversity and agriculture. One fear is that they will transfer Varroa mites to our domestic Apis mellifera (European honey bee) populations, which have been resident in Australia for almost 200 years. Most foreign Apis incursions have been Apis cerana, and this species is the original host of Varroa mites. There are other mite species that persist with Apis dorsata, which can also negatively affect Apis mellifera. Varroa mites, and the diseases they can carry, are a major threat to European honey bees around the world.
Since 2007 Australia has had a resident population of Apis cerana in the greater Cairns region. These bees are the descendants of a single colony that did not carry any Varroa mites (the first colony was actually found in a local Cairns boat in dry dock, and had likely been there for over a year, probably having come from an international ship that stopped in port). Over 660 descendant nests have since been found and destroyed. These bees are now here to stay. The most recent detection of a separate Apis cerana incursion was last week, in Townsville port. The colony that was found (~5000 bees) is believed to have been there, undetected, for up to two years. It was found with Varroa mites (two individuals). Time will tell if this was a lucky, isolated find, or if they have reproduced and spread already (which is possibly more likely)? What is clear is that the arrival of foreign Apis colonies to Australian ports happens fairly frequently, and our quarantine detection measures have so far averted multiple potential invasions.
(Note: Varroa mites will not directly affect any native Australian bee species, although there is potential that the diseases they transmit among honey bee colonies may spread to native bees too)
A Senate Committee has been established to assess ‘the risks and opportunities associated with the use of the bumblebee population in Tasmania for commercial pollination purposes’. Submissions to the enquiry are being accepted until the 3rd of March. This is a complex issue, and one that I hope the committee will consider with appropriate depth. Feral bumble bees have been established in Tasmania now for 25 years. It is understandable that some farmers in Tasmania would like to take advantage of these introduced bees in the pollination of their crops. However, one of the threats associated with such a move being implemented is that should it become legal for introduced bumble bees to be actively managed in Tasmania, to the advantage of crop pollination, then it may pave the way for an eventual introduction of these bees to mainland Australia for the same purposes. An introduction of bumble bees to mainland Australia will likely have disastrous consequences for biodiversity (many of which have already been described in Tasmania after bumble bee arrival), and there is growing evidence from overseas that introduced bumble bee populations can transmit pests and diseases to both wild native bee populations, and to managed European honey bee populations. If the Senate ends up recommending that Tasmanian farmers be able to utilise introduced bumble bees, then I hope that such a decision only goes ahead with strong legislation against their future importation into mainland Australia. It is reasonable to fear though, that even with strong legal protections against future mainland importation, the establishment of bumble bee management in Tasmania would rapidly increase the chances of their illegal introduction to the mainland. As such, I feel there is no choice but to opposed the legalised active management of these bees in Tasmania, and instead call for the use only of wild feral populations of these bees that already exist around crops. You can find the call for comment on the committee here: http://www.aph.gov.au/…/Environment_and_Communic…/Bumblebees
*And a little more info here: http://www.aph.gov.au/…/Envir…/Bumblebees/Terms_of_Reference *And some informative background on the subject here:http://www.aussiebee.com.au/bumblebees-8may06.html
In preparation for spring, you can make nest sites for native cavity nesting solitary bees for your garden. Get a block of timber (that has not been treated with any chemicals!) and drill some holes in it. Holes of 6mm and 8mm diameter seem to be good, and will attract resin bees and leafcutter bees. But why not experiment too? Drill some other random sizes and see what you get? Drill as deep as you can, up to a depth of about 13–15cm for the larger diametres. The holes should be angled slightly up, so the bee goes up a very slight incline as it crawls in. After drilling the holes, it can also help to flame the hole entrances slightly. One way of doing this is to briefly pass the timber over a burning gas cooking ring. I suggest just having a series of small nest blocks scattered around, rather than a big block or a ‘bee wall’, as large aggregations can increase the incidence of pests and disease. Put your nest block outside in a place where it is protected from rain and harsh summer sun. Now wait patiently, and when it starts to warm up, females of various solitary bee species might move in. If you miss seeing the bees coming and going, you will know when someone has nested in a hole because the end will be sealed up. Remember that solitary bees can sting, but usually only if handled. In nature these bee species often nest in the holes left by wood boring beetles.
These are a collection of posts that have appeared on the Bee Aware Brisbane Facebook page over the last couple of years.