Monday, March 19, 2012

USDA APHIS, Solitary Bees & Invasive Species

                 When it comes to defending the United States from invasion, the Department of Defense gets all the glory, and most of the money. When it comes to making sure that our food supply is defended from harmful, non indigenous invasive species, USDA APHIS, supported by the systematics research of USDA ARS BARC, through the front line efforts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists, get no attention and little funding.[1] For the most part, we do not notice when they are successful because their success means nothing happened, and nothing happening does not make news. USDA APHIS works 24/7 to protect the health and value of American agriculture and natural resources.  In its never ending vigilance it watches over the production of food, fuel, feed, fiber, forage, flowers, forests and even fish.

An Introduction to the Solitary Bees  

               Even as the service is under extreme funding pressure it continues to produce results in defense of the ecosystems of the United States. For example, some of the native species of mason bees, Osmia, in North America that are used in pollination (many of them are also reproduced from wild stocks) are in the same genus or subgenus as Europe's red mason bee. The potentially invasive species Osmia rufa, red mason bee, is a vector for many parasites which can be transferred between our native and the European exotic  species.  For that reason any interception and identification is of particular importance for American agriculture and natural ecosystems.
               Several weeks ago in Norfolk, Virginia, the red mason bee was intercepted in household goods from Europe coming into the U.S.  From the point of view of the particular species this interception is significant because it belongs to the same genus (and subgenera) of mason bees present in the US many of which (50-100 species) are native and as in the case of O. lignaria broadly used for pollination of orchards in the country. The species intercepted has never been intercepted in the US according to PestID even though it is one of the most common native mason bees in Europe (particularly the U.K.).[2]
               This interception was submitted as urgent to the Port Identifier in Baltimore, Dr. Jim Young on February 3rd of 2012 without any tentative identification or remarks from CBP.  Dr. Young then dissected the puparium and found “soon to emerge” adult bees which he then tentatively identified as Osmia rufa L.  Even more remarkable is the fact that Dr. Young was correct in his identification of the species (there are hundreds of species worldwide): his identification was confirmed by the acting National Specialist for the group. The work of APHIS PPQ highlights the importance of the identifiers and the need to fund their work so that they can continue to  keep potentially devastating pests from entering our country and our agriculture. 

[1] U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Port of Norfolk CBP Intercepts First in the Nation Pest. February 15, 2012. [accessed March 19, 2012]
[2] Red mason bee has also been introduced in northern Africa and some parts of the Middle East.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A local person has brought 2 hives of Russian bees to our community. After research, this person found them to be more hearty than other bees and perhaps able to make it through our difficult freeze/thaw/freeze winters. Are these any threat to our local bees?