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    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    Mad scientist releases non-killer bees in Surrey

    The stupidity of scientists never ceases to surprise or alarm. New Scientist reports the insane activities of a Dr. Tom Ings at Queen Mary, University of London.(Journal of Applied Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2006.01199.x).(See also Daily Telegraph report July 13th 2006. )

    In a standard experiment in bucket chemistry i.e what will happen if we do x and we stand and watch. He released commercial bumblebees into the wild (Bombus terrestris dalmatinus) which are used in large volume , usually from Dutch sources for pollinating tomatoes in closed cycle greenhouse systems - i.e the bees cannot escape.

    "We wanted to determine whether or not escaped commercial bees could survive in the UK countryside," says the intrepid lunatic Tom, aware (one hopes as any cursory review of the literature will show), that non-endemic species of plants and animals can be invasive and more specifically that non endemic commercial bumblebees have established themselves in the wild in Japan and Chile.

    Well this bone headed guy installed 7 colonies of the native B. terrestris audax and seven of the imported B. terrestris dalmatinus near Egham, Surrey.

    They installed devices to narrow the entrance to colonies to prevent imported queens escaping ( 100% effective I am sure) and collected males before they were able to leave. He found the answer ...""Unfortunately, we found that they could". Presumably after having obtained a licence for the release from DEFRA.(?) See Legal Footnote.

    Commercial colonies were unsurprisingly better at foraging for nectar than native bees, and the bees were consistently larger. They also produced more queens capable of flying off and founding new hives, than did native colonies living in the same environment.

    Alarmingly, the commercial subspecies not only created the largest colonies but also set them up the most readily. This could lead to the aliens outcompeting native bumblebees, warns the percipient Ings.

    Japan understood the threat some time ago and imposed strict restrictions on bee importation. But many others, including the UK, US and Mexico,Austyralia * (Footnote) have yet to take action.


    The Regulation and Control of the Release of Non-native Animals and Plants into the Wild in Great Britain

    2. The control of releases of non-native animals and plants under section 14 of the Act

    2.1. With respect to the release of animal species, Section 14(1) of the Act states that:

    "Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person releases or allows to escape into the wild any animal which -

    (a) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state:


    he shall be guilty of an offence."

    In section 14, a non-native animal is one that is "not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state".

    It is of interest to Note that the States of Jersey introduced in February 2005 control of " BUMBLEBEES Bombus terrestris terrestris (L) or Bombus terrestris audax (Harris)."


    A good introduction to imported invasive species is here

    Invasive species and Biological control

    A very recent paper on the problems of imported bumble bees in Australia / Tasmania.

    Hingston, Andrew B, Herrmann, Walter & Jordan, Gregory J (2006)
    Reproductive success of a colony of the introduced bumblebee Bombus terrestris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in a Tasmanian National Park.
    Australian Journal of Entomology 45 (2), 137-141.
    doi: 10.1111/j.1440-6055.2006.00527.x

    These results strongly suggest that B. terrestris is able to reproduce successfully in parts of Australia that still support almost exclusively native vegetation. "

    There was secepticism that this species, being European could not sustain itself in Australia - it turned out they had a decent appetite for Eucalyptus pollen.

    Original quoted article .... From issue 2560 of New Scientist magazine, 13 July 2006, page 4


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