US Government officials said they do not know how many Australian bees have been imported, but hive importer Sullivan estimates that he has sold 110,000 hives since 2005.
Aussies try to control their problem bees. The Australian government has adopted emergency controls to quarantine and destroy the aggressive bees and has never detected that mite, according to materials provided by Chelsey Martin, counselor for public affairs at the Australian Embassy in Washington.
U.S. agriculture officials say they also are taking precautions. (It is a little late to take precautions after the bees have been here for five years!)
Agricultural officials started sampling Australian bees last week after they were released in the Central Valley, California.
“Bees from Australia make great sense,” said Wayne Wehling, a senior entomologist in the USDA’s permit unit. “But we certainly don’t want to bring any economic impacts onto our honeybees that we don’t already have or introduce any new pests or disease.”
Early this month, the USDA decided to permit the bee shipments to resume with some precautions, and the first plane loads arrived in San Francisco last Monday.
Beekeeper Ken Haff of Mandan, N.D., says he fears the foreign hives could kill off his apiary.
“We’ve got enough problems with our own bee diseases that we don’t know how to treat, and they open the border to a whole new species that could carry God knows what,” said Haff, a vice president of the American Honey Producers Association. “That’s a total slap in the face for us.”
Shad Sullivan, a bee wholesaler in California’s Central Valley, said that in the four years he has imported bees from Australia, he has found that the hearty imports outlive domestic bees that have been weakened by pesticides, pests and diseases.
“If the bees were truly carrying something that bad, I would have been the first to get it,” Sullivan said as a thick cloud of the buzzing insects flew overhead. “I just haven’t seen those kinds of devastation.”
Excerpts & image courtesy of YahooNews
Beekeepers fear sting of imported Australian hives -GARANCE BURKE, AP, January 17, 2009.