Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Uncoordinated trade policies aid alien bee invasions

March 6, 2018 by Conicet-Universidad Nacional Del Comahue Press Release, British Ecological Society

Patagonia may lose its only native bumblebee species due to invasions by alien bee species sanctioned by government policy.

In a paper published today in Journal of Applied Ecology, Marcelo Aizen from the Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Argentina, and colleagues from four countries draw attention to the severe conservation, economic and political consequences of intentional species introductions supported by government policies.

They illustrate these consequences based on the recent spread of invasive European bumblebees, especially the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) from Chile to southern Argentina.

Chile formally allows continuous importation of alien bumblebees to pollinate agricultural crops. Since 1997, this policy has authorized importation of more than a million bumblebee colonies. During 2015 alone, more than 200,000 colonies and queens were imported.

Unfortunately, bumblebees are mobile and do not respect international boundaries, even those established along major geographic barriers. As a consequence, the alien species have spread widely in Chile and Argentina, and one species is on the verge of entering Bolivia and Perú. The invasion of Argentina across the Andes and its unintended consequences have occurred despite Argentina having banned importation of non-native bumblebees.

The most serious biological impact of this invasion is the decline of the Patagonian giant bumblebee (Bombus dahlbomii), the only native bumble bee in southern South America and one of the world's largest bumblebees.

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