The Australian government has rejected an application for Bombus terrestris, the large earth bumblebee, to be imported. The bees were to be used in greenhouses for pollinating tomatoes.
This particular bee is considered an invasive species, and I have written before about bees in greenhouses not staying where they are supposed to. These domesticated bumblebees are believed to be responsible for the spread of a parasite that is now killing native bumblebees in the US.
“Large Earth Bumblebees are specialist pollinators of a number of European plant species, either because they require a bee of a certain size (e.g. foxglove, Digitalis spp.), weight (e.g. Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius), or require buzz pollination to release pollen from poricidal anthers (e.g. many Solanaceae). This may facilitate an increase in the abundance and distribution of weed species. The presence of the Large Earth Bumblebee may also disrupt pollination of native plant species.”
Basically, European weeds require European bees to pollinate them because of past co-adaptation. In the absence of these bumble bees, the spread of those weeds in Australia is limited. If you put the new bees into the system…that could help the introduced weeds spread even more.
There is also concern that the size of the bumblebees may cause competition and displacement of native species.
Yay to Australia for giving native bees a chance!
Thanks to Marcia Salviato for the image.