Red dwarf honey bee

Page last updated: Monday, 17 January 2022 - 9:46am

DPIRD is investigating the detection of the exotic pest Red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea) discovered on a recently imported sea container located at Forrestfield.

Dwarf honeybee are known to be a vector for numerous exotic bee pests, including brood diseases, internal and external mites and bee viruses.

The department is calling on the State’s beekeepers to check their hives for the pest.

Current situation

  • DPIRD surveillance activities have not detected any further exotic bees other than the original exotic bee swarm.
  • The department has undertaken molecular testing to confirm the bee species.
  • The suspect swarm has been destroyed.
  • A single Euvarroa mite was detected on one of the bees. The mite reproduces on the drone brood of Red dwarf honey bees and is not known to naturally parasitise our European honey bee.
  • Beekeepers with hives along the rail transport route between Fremantle and Forrestfield are being asked to remain vigilant when undertaking hive inspections and to report anything unusual to DPIRD’s Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS).

Distribution

Dwarf honey bees are native to Asia, commonly found in tropical areas. 

The Red dwarf honey bee is naturally distributed from the Indian subcontinent throughout Southeast Asia through to the Malaysian peninsula. 

The dwarf honey bee is not known to be present in Australia. 

Impact

Red dwarf honey bees are social bees which live in colonies of approximately 3,000 insects and swarm readily, making them a major threat for exotic incursions and to the Australian environment. 

One of the major risks for Australia is Red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea) is host to a range of bee brood diseases, parasites, and viruses that may impact European honey bees.

The Red dwarf honey bee can carry Euverroa mites (Euvarroa wongsirii and Euvarroa sinhai) both of which are close relatives to the destructive Varroa mites. The species can also carry Tropilaelaps mites (Tropilaelaps clareae). 

Red dwarf honey bees may also compete with other bees for floral resources.

What to look for

Red dwarf honey bees are characterised by their external nesting habits. There nest is made up of an exposed single horizontal comb less than 25 centimetres wide that is built around and attached to tree branches or other support.

The pest is easily distinguished by their small size in comparison to the European honey bee, being just 7-10 millimeters in length. They have a red/brown abdomen with black and white bands.

Apis florea dorsal Apis florea lateral Apis florea hive

Reporting

Early detection is key to protecting Western Australia’s valuable bee and horticultural industries. Immediately report any unusual bees or hives.

DPIRD Pest and Disease Information Service

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