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Red dwarf honey bee - Industry update

Situation update by DPIRD, released 13 July 2023

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is investigating the detection of the exotic pest red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea) on the Burrup Peninsula near Karratha.

In late March 2023, DPIRD received a report from Pilbara Port Authority via MyPestGuide® Reporter of suspect exotic bees observed at the Dampier wharf, Western Australia.

The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and DPIRD confirmed the bee samples as Apis florea.

A joint survey between DAFF and DPIRD has been undertaken at multiple sites on the Burrup Peninsula near Karratha.

Individual bees found on flowering plants in the area and an established nest found in vegetation on a rocky outcrop were destroyed.

An ethanol wash of the bees from the nest detected brood mites (Euvarroa sinhai). DAFF and DPIRD are planning additional surveillance to ensure no further red dwarf honey bees are present in the area.

Potential impacts Native to Asia, the red dwarf honey bee is not known to be present in Australia.

Red dwarf honey bees are social bees which live in colonies of at least 3,000 insects.


They migrate, swarm, and abscond readily, making them a major threat for exotic incursions and to the Australian environment.


They are a host to a range of bee brood diseases, parasites and viruses that may impact European honey bees.

The red dwarf honey bee can carry Euvarroa mite (Euvarroa Sinha), a close relative to the destructive Varroa mites.


Euvarroa mite reproduces on the drone brood of red dwarf honey bees and is not known to naturally parasitise our European honey bee.

The species can also carry Tropilaelaps mites (Tropilaelaps clareae), which is a known pest of European honey bees.

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 and or open nesting habits.


Their 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, including buildings and shipping containers.

The pest is easily distinguished from European honey bees by their small size in comparison to the European honey bee, being just 7-10 millimetres in length.


They have a red/brown abdomen with black and white bands.

Look for unusual bees that look smaller than European honey bees or colonies with exposed combs.

More information For more information please visit: agric.wa.gov.au/red-dwarf-honey-bee.

For beekeeper enquiries, please contact James Sheehan on 0427 449 103 or james.sheehan@dpird.wa.gov.au.

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

Members of the public and workers in the area are encouraged to report sightings of any exotic bees in the area to assist in ensuring no further red dwarf honey bees are present.

If you work at a port or transport imported goods and shipping containers, you must report any sighting of bees associated with these goods.


Exotic bees are a pathway for bee pests and viruses so they must be reported.

Report all sightings to the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service on (08) 9368 3080 or email padis@dpird.wa.gov.au.

Alternatively, you can send photos via the department’s MyPestGuide® Reporter app (Google Play Store and Apple iTunes Store).

Red dwarf honey bee

Apis florea 7-10mm in size

  • Red/brown abdomen with black and white bands

  • Smaller in size than the European honey bee



Nest

Exposed single comb

  • Less than 25cm wide

  • Built around a support including trees, rocks or shipping containers




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