Stowaway bee from Turkey which came to UK hidden in family’s holiday luggage ‘poses threat to UK species’

A bee which was brought back to the in a UK family’s holiday luggage could pose a threat to British species, experts have warned.

Ashley Toy, 49, and his family from Bristol inadvertently took home an osmia avosetta bee from a recent trip to Turkey.

They noticed the insect when it started making a nest on their sofa from flower petals.

The Toy family believe the bee or a larvae made its way into their suitcases while they were on holiday.

They discovered the stowaway when they saw a perfectly constructed petal cocoon on their sofa in their conservatory.

Daughter Amelia, 19, did some research, and discovered the osmia avosetta, which makes its cocoon from flowers, is only found in Turkey and Iran.

It is thought the bee was a stowaway in luggage (Picture: SWNS)
The bee is only found in Turkey and Iran (Picture: SWNS)
Amelia Toy and her mother Louise with some of the petals gathered by the bee (Picture: SWNS)

The family notified the British Beekeepers Association who have since told Defra about the discovery.

A spokeswoman for the British Beekeepers Association said the non-native queen could have a "devastating effect" on native mason bees.

She said: "Non-native species like this bee pose several problems and need to be controlled. They may carry viruses that will wipe out native species or they may simply out-compete similar species for food sources."

It is thought to be the first time an osmia avosetta has been spotted in the UK.

Mr Toy, a consultant engineer and his wife Louise, 47, a secretary, went with their son Joshua, 15, to Dalaman in Turkey before returning about a week ago.

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He threw the initial cocoon of petals away, not knowing what it was, then realised they had a tiny guest when another nest appeared.

The bee has been flying in and out of the garden to pick up petals from a hydrangea to create its intricate nests.

"It was bringing in these petals and creating little cocoons or little petals," said Amelia. "It was really strange.

"Every morning it comes in when we open the door. Then it goes in and out, in and out. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I'm fascinated by it.

"It flies out, it's gone for literally ten seconds in the garden, and then brings a petal in."

Dave Goulson, professor of biology at the the University of Sussex, said: “Importing non-native species does pose the two threats of a) it becomes established and outcompetes native species and b) it might be carrying non-native bee diseases.

The bee has made a new home for itself in Bristol (Picture: SWNS)

“The wise thing to do would be to capture and kill the bee, harsh though this sounds.”

His colleague at the university, bees expert Professor Francis Ratnieks, said: “It is impossible that one bee imported from a foreign country in the form of a pupa/cocoon could cause that species to establish in the UK, as it won't have anyone to mate to.

“Even if many were imported that would not mean that they could establish here.

“In the past few decades we have had at least three new species of bee that have colonised Britain from Europe, one likely with the aid of humans - as it’s only found in part of the Docklands in London - and two probably under their own steam.

“One of these, the ivy bee, is now found in the millions over the southern half of Britain. Another, the tree bumble bee, is also extremely common and found over most of Britain.”

A spokesman for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) at Defra said: “We are making arrangements to collect the bee for formal identification and destruction.

“We remain vigilant, working closely with the National Bee Unit and their nationwide network of bee inspectors to monitor the situation.”

Defra advised travellers to check their luggage, particularly if it has been kept outside during a holiday.

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