Finding a live and buzzing bumblebee in a punnet of interstate raspberries was an unpleasant surprise for a Perth woman recently.
These hairy, black and yellow banded insects may seem cute but are not wanted in Western Australia, according to the Department of Agriculture and Food.
Department senior technical officer Marc Widmer said bumblebees are social insects that aggressively defend their nests with a nasty sting.
“This is the first time a bumblebee has been found in WA and the lady who handed it in to the Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS) is to be commended,” Mr Widmer said.
“A high level of awareness among the community of potential pests such as bumblebees is important so they are picked up. It is important that if a member of the public does see an unusual pest, they report it to PaDIS.”
The bumblebee appears to have entered the raspberry punnet on a Tasmanian property before it was sealed and was only discovered when the raspberries were ready for serving.
“This particular bumblebee was a sterile worker female and unable to breed, but if a fertilised queen escaped and established a new nest, as happens with European wasps, it could begin a new population here,” Mr Widmer said.
Tasmania is the only Australian state where bumblebees have established to date, although they are found in New Zealand.
Bumblebees compete against native bees and honeybees for pollen and nectar and are known to actually destroy many flowers whilst foraging.
They were considered potential pollinators for greenhouse tomatoes but instead have become environmental pests, pollinating and increasing seed set and the spread of weeds.
“We hope this is a single case only, but can never be sure,” Mr Widmer added. “If anyone finds an insect that they suspect might be a bumblebee, please contact PaDIS on 1800 084 881, so we can check it out, and prevent another unwanted pest establishing in WA.”
Media contact: Jodie Thomson, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937