Saturday, 4 December 2010

CATCH THE BUZZ - Bees From Australia Banned, so far


Austrailan Bees Banned By APHIS

Maybe A Virus, Maybe Not

By Alan Harman


   With little public fanfare, the United States has banned the importation of honey bee queens and package bees from Australia.

    Minister Counselor (Agriculture) Simon Smalley at the Australian Embassy in Washington and a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (ASPHIS) both confirm the move made towards the end of last month.

   Both say there is a “temporary suspension” of the imports, but the APHIS website has a one sentence reference that reads:

   “Importation of honey bee queens and package bees from Australia is prohibited.”

   But the halt is not because of the Asian bee incursion in northern Queensland as many expected but because of something called slow paralysis virus.

   In a letter sent to AHIS official Wayne. F. Wehling and seen by Bee Culture, Australian world bee authority Dennis Anderson of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization questions the decision, saying the virus has never been found in Australia.

   “I wish to inform you that Slow Paralysis Virus has not been detected in or reported from Australia,” Anderson says. “This is despite a number of surveys for it.”

   Anderson says this is borne out by the following:

   “In the latest publication on SPV by Miranda et al 2010 … it states on page 2525 that quote ‘SBPV appears to be extremely rare, having been identified positively only in Britain, Fiji and Western Samoa (Allen & Ball, 1996; Anderson, 1990; Carreck et al., 2010; Martin et al., 1998), despite being included in surveys of Australia (Hornitzky, 1987), New Zealand (Todd et al., 2007), Scandinavia (Nordstrom et al., 1999) and Poland (Topolska et al., 1995). Only in Britain has it ever been associated with colony mortality (Carreck et al., 2010)’.”

   Anderson, principal research scientist at the CSIRO, says he is confident Australia knows what viruses are present in its honeybees.

   “This is also borne out be the fact that since imports of Australian bees into the U.S. started in 2005 (?), no viruses have been detected in Australian bees in the U.S. that Australia didn't already know about and publish,” the letter says.

  He says the only exception is Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). However, Anderson says, prior to this virus being named IAPV by a researcher in Israel, that virus had been regarded in Australia as a strain of Kashmir Bee Virus.

   “If SPV was the primary reason for APHIS suspending imports of Australian honeybees into the U.S. (and this is the reason given in the official response), then the process that led to the decision to suspend has been a travesty and it should be reconsidered,” Anderson’s letter states.

   In another letter, also seen by Bee Culture, Tim Ryan of Biosecurity Australia tells Daniel Weaver, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, hisorganization was in the process to writing to APHIS to start to detail the lack of evidence for SPV being in Australia.

   “Your request for a copy of the letter from APHIS has come back to Biosecurity Australia, but the decision is that we cannot release government to government correspondence without the permission of the originating party,” Ryan states.

   “However, I can tell you that the letter states that suspension is ‘primarily due to slow paralysis virus’ but then goes on to mention other viruses- TSBV and BVX.

   “It quotes the findings of the APHIS Pest Risk Assessment from earlier in the year as support for the suspension ‘until Australia can control or eradicate the Asian honey bee and provide data about the distribution of bee viruses and pests, particularly SPV.’

   “To me this leaves them a pretty wide operating scope outside SPV. In my interpretation the letter also precludes an increase in the export exclusion zone around the Asian bee area again quoting the ‘unknown’ distribution of SPV.”

   Australian bee exporter Warren Taylor, one of the pioneers of the U.S. trade through his Australian Queen Bee Exporters Pty. Ltd. company, says SRV does not exist in Australia.

  “Somehow, somewhere it was reported that we had Slow Paralysis Virus which was incorrect,” he says in an email to Bee Culture. “I guess the ban is all political so USDA is now trying to find something else to hang their hat on.

   “Our bees have been tested so frequently as they entered U.S. I am sure that they would have found something if it actually existed.

   “I guess U.S. beekeepers will be very short of queens January to March as I visited Hawaii in June and saw problems they are having with Varroa and SHB.”


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