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Can You Help Track Down a New Exotic Bee in NSW?

June 2008

A new exotic bee has been discovered in the Upper Hunter Valley, NSW. This Emerald Furrow Bee (Halictus smaragdulus) comes from the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. Volunteers are needed to help track down populations of this new invader.

The Emerald Furrow Bee is metallic green and similar in size to Lipotriches flavoviridis (6 - 8 mm long).

Further details can be found on the PaDIL website (http://www.padil.gov.au/viewPestDiagnosticImages.aspx?id=179).

The new bee was found by Dr John Gollan and Dr Michael Batley in late 2004. Unfortunately it had already become well established by that time -- it was the second most common bee in some areas.

emerald furrow beePhoto by Joaquin Portela

What Harm Could the Emerald Furrow Bee Do?

The Emerald Furrow Bee was visiting several weed species including Galenia pubescens, which is a declared noxious weed in some areas of NSW.

There are no other Halictus bees in Australia. So scientists are concerned that due to a lack of native competitors, this bee may breed up to huge numbers. If this happens, the exotic Emerald Furrow Bees may:

-- compete with native species for food resources and nest sites;

-- transmit parasites and pathogens to native species;

-- alter the seed set of native plants; and

-- help spread weeds by pollinating them.

Dr Gollan says that, unless we act quickly, the Emerald Furrow Bee may cause species extinctions and irreversible environmental damage.

Dr Gollan says, 'The impact of exotic species on natives and ecosystems as a whole is one of the world's most serious issues. A strong case can be made that exotic species represent the biggest threat to Australia's biodiversity after vegetation clearing.'

The problems caused by exotic species such as cane-toads, foxes and rabbits are well known in Australia. However, exotic bees could also cause much damage to the environment.

Fortunately, a team at the Australian Museum, led by Dr John Gollan, has been awarded a grant from the Winifred Violet Scott Charitable Trust to tackle this serious problem. The team aims to find out how far this exotic bee has spread. In collaboration with Alain Pauly of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, they will also work to find out where the bees originally came from.

Can You Help?

Dr Gollan needs your help! He is looking for volunteers in NSW to collect specimens for the project during this coming spring and summer. Could you help to collect bees in:

-- the Hunter Valley;
-- the Tamworth/Armidale/Gloucester area;
-- the Taree/Great Lakes/Lake Macquarie area; or
-- the Mudgee/Coolah area?

Volunteers will use yellow pan-traps, which are yellow bowls filled with salt water. Dr Gollan says these traps are safe and easy for anyone to use -- you do not need to touch the bees.

All equipment and instructions will be provided.

bee pan trap

Collectors' names will also be 'immortalised' in the Australian Museum's insect collection -- their names will be recorded permanently on the specimens they collect.

For more information about the project or if you are interested in collecting specimens, please contact Dr Gollan at the Australian Museum (john.gollan@austmus.gov.au, 02 9320 6429).

© 2008 Australian Native Bee Research Centre
PO Box 74, North Richmond NSW 2754, Australia