A rare Turkish bee smuggled herself into the UK and was deemed such a threat to British bees that the UK government decided to kill her. (NOTE: the bee in the image above is a Mason Bee but not of the Osmia Avosetta species.)
The bee entered the UK as a stowaway in the luggage of the Toy family while they vacationed in Dalaman, Turkey. She used flower petals to build attractive cocoons on the sofa of their Bristol home, then vanished. The Toys informed the National Bee Unit what had happened, but the bee escaped before DEFRA, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, could destroy her. DEFRA’s Animal and Plant Health Agency intended to collect and destroy the cocoons.
The British Beekeepers Association has stated that this bee, the rare Osmia Avosetta species, could devastate British bees by spreading deadly viruses that would endanger native British bees. She might also multiply, change the gene pool, or even wipe out British bees in the future.
Osmia Avosetta bees are a type of mason bee only found in Iran and Turkey, and are unknown in the UK. Amazingly, they were discovered in Turkey and Iran on the same day in 2009 but had never been seen before. This solitary mason bee species has a rare way of crafting a petal and mud sack and stocking it with nectar and food before sealing and burying it in the barren earth, where the larvae grows all winter.
Some sources say the rogue bee is causing an international incident. The Istanbul newspaper Hürriyet Daily is calling for the bee’s life to be spared. On the other hand, Turkey’s Union of Beekeepers has stated many foreigners take wildlife from Turkey intentionally, although that isn’t what seems to have happened in this case.
The scientist who discovered this species has pleaded British officials not to harm the cocoon sacks. Dr. Jerome Rozen, from the American Museum of Natural History, discovered the bees in 2009 some 5,000 feet up the side of a remote mountain in southern Turkey. He urges DEFRA to preserve the colorful petal cocoons and announced that the cocoons are probably brood chambers containing fertilized eggs that will turn into over-wintering larvae, with bees emerging next year. He suggested the cocoons should be properly examined to verify whether the bee was truly Osmia Avosetta or not.
Native British bees have been under threat from waves of invading highly aggressive bee-killing Asian hornets since 2004.
DEFRA has the petal cocoons but are undecided what they will do with them.
What do you think should be the fate of the Turkish bee if she is ever found?