A Turkish bee carried into Britain in holidaymakers’ luggage is to be killed, government officials have decided.
The foreign insect – believed to be of the Osmia avosetta species – has been busily constructing cocoons out of flower petals in the conservatory of the Toy family since their return from Dalaman last week.
They say the bee waits patiently by the back door of their Bristol home every morning and gets on with creating intricate nests as soon as it is allowed inside.
However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), on Monday confirmed it was preparing to catch and kill the animal.
It follows warnings from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) that the bee could endanger native species by spreading deadly viruses, or by multiplying and eventually outcompeting local rivals.
Experts said officials have become hyper-sensitive to the presence of any foreign bees due to invasions of Asian hornets, which prey on honey bees and other crucial pollinators.
A spokesman for the Animal and Plant Health Agency, part of Defra, warned travelers to check their luggage thoroughly before returning to the UK, especially if it has been kept outside.
“We are making arrangements to collect the bee for formal identification and destruction,” he said.
“We remain vigilant, working closely with the National Bee Unit and their nationwide network of bee inspectors to monitor the situation.”
Ashley Toy, 49, first spotted an unusual petal cocoon on his conservatory sofa.
His 19-year-old daughter, Amelia, then noticed an unfamiliar looking bee outside the house.
They did some research and realised it was Osmia avosetta, a solitary species only found in Turkey and Iran.
“It was bringing in these petals and creating little cocoons,” Miss Toy told the Daily Mail.
“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.”
Tim Lovett MBE, a former BBKA president, told The Telegraph the Turkish insect was unlikely to pose a threat.
“One bee does not a disaster make,” he said.
“To be dangerous it would need to set up a viable home and start breeding, and if it hasn’t brought a mate with it then the chances of that must be next to none.”
He added: “I think it’s an understandable reaction in that they [Defra] want to be seen to be doing something. But I don’t think it’s got much of a chance in any event.”
Environmental officials have been urging members of the republic to report sightings of foreign looking bees since Asian hornets began plaguing the UK in 2004.
The hornets can eat up to 50 honey bees a day, a species which are themselves under threat.
Up to 80 Asian hornets have been spotted so far this year on Jersey, leading to fears mainland England could experience a devastating invasion.
The species pose the biggest threat around September, when they start lurking around the entrance to honeybee hives.
Mr Lovett played down comparisons with the Toy’s situation, saying it is “very unlikely” the Osmia avosetta could cross-breed with native UK bees.
The APHA spokesman said that if people do find a foreign insect after returning from abroad, they should report it, along with the dates and location of the foreign trip, as well as supplying a photograph of the insect if possible.