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Foreign bee swarm found in the Norther Territory, Australia

Daily Update

FOREIGN INVADER: A swarm of Asian honey bees has been found in Darwin.

The NT Government is asking Territorians to keep an eye out for any unusual looking bees after a swarm of Asian honey bees were spotted in Darwin.

On May 13, a local beekeeper was contacted to collect a swarm of bees from the front yard of a residence in Karama.

The Mother’s Day visitors were huddled close keeping warm in the cool morning air.

Noticing they were different to other bees known to inhabit the area, the vigilant beekeeper reported the find to the Department of Primary Industry and Resources apiary officer.

Entomologists from DPIR and Department of Agriculture and Water Resources confirmed the bees were Asian honey bee (Apis cerana), an exotic bee to the Northern Territory.

Asian honey bees are a significant threat to Australian and Northern Territory (NT) honey and pollination industries because they could carry bee pests and diseases such as the varroa mite which feeds on bees.

Examination of the swarm has shown no presence of any mites and all bees in the swarm were destroyed, including the queen.

Testing for exotic viruses is also underway.

Analysis of the bees’ genetics will be conducted to get a better understanding if this swarm is related to the Asian honey bee present in far north Queensland, or another strain from overseas.

Surveillance activities have commenced at parks, reserves and local schools in the area of the detection with no further detections of Asian honey bee to date.

Asian honey bees are:

  • yellow and dark brown with black body stripes and legs
  • similar to the common European honey bees, but approximately 5mm smaller
  • when swarming, they move in very tight clusters that range from the size of a closed hand to that of a basketball
  • more aggressive than European bees and more likely to sting.

DPIR’s chief plant health officer Sarah Corcoran said it was important for the community to report any suspect bees to help protect our existing bee populations and the farmers and community who depend on the insects.

“Asian honey bee has been detected in Darwin previously. In 1998, a nest was reported inside the roof of a house in Ludmilla, and in 2015 a nest was detected in the footstep of a camper trailer at Darwin Showgrounds transported from Cairns for the Camping and Expo Show.

“No further Asian honey bee nests or swarms were found following these reports thanks to help from Territorians and we aim to do so again,” she said.

“If you think you have seen any suspect bees, please report them to NT Plant Biosecurity by calling the Apiary Officer on 0401 115 853 or the exotic plant pest hotline on 1800 084 881.”


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