Time called on non-native bee imports

Class licence permitting release of imported bumblebees will not being renewed after expiration.

Bumblebees: no licence renewal  - image: Seelensturm
Bumblebees: no licence renewal - image: Seelensturm

Natural England has confirmed that it will no longer permit imports and sales of non-native bumblebees as crop pollinators, following a consultation that concluded in September.

The class licence that permits their release is not being renewed after it expires at the end of this month.

An amended class licence "will only permit the release of non-native insects in circumstances where growers, researchers and pollination service providers cannot source commercial native bumblebees in sufficient quantities and at the appropriate times to ensure crop pollination", the Government agency said.

Tomato Growers Association technical committee member Derek Hargreaves said the ban emerged as a concern at the committee's meeting last week.

"The problem is that the hives are only produced by two companies on the continent and they will have to raise the UK subspecies (Bombus terrestris ssp. audax) solely for the UK market. They won't have huge reserves so if you need more you may have to wait 20 weeks for the production cycle to complete."

Meanwhile, the option of applying for a site-specific licence to import non-native bees "would still probably take four-to-six weeks to sort out", he suggested.

Hargreaves added that audax "also appears a bit more work-shy than its European counterparts".

However, conservation charity Buglife campaigns officer Vanessa Amaral-Rogers welcomed the move. She said escapes of non-native subspecies "could have disastrous effects". But she added: "We still need to address the risk of diseases coming in from other countries."

A UK study published last year found that more than three-quarters of the commercial bumblebee colonies contained microbial parasites on the bees and in their pollen food, despite the producers concerned claiming they were parasite-free.

Macro-Mite Replacement predatory mite

Insect pollinator and predator supplier Koppert has said it will withdraw its Entomite-A, the predatory soil mite Gaeolaelaps aculeifer, and will replacing it with Macro-Mite (Macrocheles robustulus).

As well as combating sciarid fly and thrips, the new mite attacks eggs and caterpillars of Duponchelia fovealis and eggs of the cabbage fly. Macro-Mite is also claimed to establish more quickly in the soil.

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