:Craft: Aussies and Apis Cerana (Asian Honey Bee)

There was a lot of news in the States and around the world, when this Winter the USDA banned the import of Australian package bees, right before the California Almond pollination.  Australia is the only Varroa free continent left, so the bees come in nice and clean.  One complaint I have heard from professional Beekeepers -  and I'm not entirely sure their motives aren't financial - is that it's a detriment to the State's bee populations to bring them in from Australia because they aren't developing mite resistant strains there; their drones are almost certainly degrading the local genetics that are developing towards resistance.

Putting that claim aside, there are Beekeepers in the states that make their entire business out of importing the Aussie bee packages, dropping them into hives early enough to build them up just in time for the Almond pollination.  They will then typically sell the hives off at the end of the Almond bloom for a decent price.  As a business model, they have been very successful with it.  I hear some folks refer to these type of people as "BeeHavers" not "BeeKeepers", with a big grin on their faces when they say it.  This also works out well for the Aussies too, as they are mid summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so it is good queen rearing season and honey flows have already peeked and they can afford to slim colony sizes down.  Bees coming to North America are strong and in good health.

I think both BeeHavers and Aussie package producers were stunned, when the announcement was made.  The reason given was Apis Cerana, the Asian Honey Bee, has been found in Northern Australia.  They appeared first in the mast of a boat, but soon other colonies of Apis Cerana were turning up in the area of the docked ship.   Apis Cerana isn't particularly a threat to anybody, not like the more aggressive African bees we are faces with, moving their way up all the way from Brazil.  So I was a little puzzled.  Crossing genetics unintentionally is always a concern, I suppose, but it still didn't seem it should make for that much alarm.

Then I ran across this fascinating video which interviews and follows the man responsible for first naming Varroa Destructor (a bit ironic that he's Australian, living in a Varroa world of his own) and a recent new find of his.

Dr. Dennis Anderson has found Varroa Jacobsoni in New Guinea, adapted to living on Apis Melifera, common European Honey bee.  This cousin of Destructor is thought to already be adapted to living with and feeding on Apis Cerena.  So the fear becomes that Jacobsoni is being spread or transported on Apis Cerana.  Apis Cerana in Northern Australia may mean a new mite in Australia.  The mite Varroa Jacobsoni in Australia will inevitably end up in North America, via this BeeHaver process, pollinating Almonds in California.

So.  There's the thought chain that has lead to the Aussie bee import ban, in the States.  I think it's a bit premature myself, since there is no evidence or proof that the Apis Cerana in Northern Australia have come with any new mites, or other diseases, in tow.  On the other hand, I'd hate to find out too late, that they did.


Post a Comment