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A guide to identification
FOREWORD This publication is a by-product of the Cairns Asian honey bee incursion of 2007. Between May and November of that year, seven AHB colonies were located and destroyed in Cairns following the identification of Apis cerana in a colony in a boat’s mast. From the beginning of that operation, identification of bee specimens was a problem not just to non-entomologists. It soon became obvious that a key was needed to allow inspectorial staff and laboratory technicians to determine if a suspect insect was, or was not, an Apis cerana. The introduction of the bee-eater bird as a monitoring tool introduced a completely new level of difficulty to the task when even the entomologists found difficulties in confirming the identity of individual wings in pellets disgorged by these birds. Similarities were also found between Apis cerana hindwings and the wings of some native bees. HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE 1. the non-entomologist, the Biosecurity Inspector, Veterinary Officer etc need use only pages 1 to 3, to confidently differentiate a bee from flies and wasps. With a microscope or hand lens and by looking at pages 4 & 5 they can decide with some confidence if their specimen is an Apis cerana. 2. the lab technician and the entomologist who has little experience with bees need only look at pages 4 and 5. 3. those with the task of examining bee-eater pellets will find as much as the experts know by reading pages 6 to 9. It should be stressed that if a specimen is at all suspected of being A.cerana, the identification should be urgently reported and the ID confirmed by a competent reference laboratory. Jack Shield PRODUCED BY
Paul Zborowski Jack Shield Bill Doherty Jane Royer Glenn Bellis Close-Up-Photolibrary Biosecurity Qld Biosecurity Qld Biosecurity Qld AQIS Entomology, design & photography Coordination & editing Entomology Entomology Entomology
There are about 1700 species of bees in 7 closely related families in Australia. Many wasp species and even species of flies, mimic the general yellow and black bee/wasp form. Therefore in the field all bee-like insects need to be sampled and examined with a hand lens, or microscope back in the lab. FLIES These first 3 insects are all hover flies imitating bees to fool their predators.
WASPS These 3 insects are all true wasps, related to bees and therefore often with similar markings.
BEES These 3 insects are all native bees. They belong to families other than the family Apidae, in which the honey bee and the Asian bee are placed.
Therefore a guide to what makes a bee and then what makes it belong to the family Apidae starts overleaf ...
The differences between bees and wasps can be hard to pick in moving insects. Any one difference can sometimes have exceptions, so to identify bees ALL of the bee features below should match. BEE FEATURES WASP FEATURES Flower wasp 2 3 hindwing Asian honey bee Bees always have two pairs of wings, the upper is the forewing and the lower is the hind wing
Is it a BEE or a WASP ?
forewing 1 4
2 1 4 3
Wasps always have two pairs of wings also
Ichneumon wasp Honey bee Cuckoo bee
Bee hind legs are broad, flattened and at least partly hairy Honey bee
Wasp hind legs are normally thin and cylindrical and very rarely hairy
paper wasp Bees typically have no ‘waist’ , unlike the paper wasp, right Wasp bodies often have a ‘waist’ between the abdomen and the thorax, similar to ants
The differences between bees and some flies can also be hard to pick in moving insects. Any one difference can sometimes have exceptions, so to identify bees ALL of the bee features below should match. BEE FEATURES FLY FEATURES
Is it a BEE or a FLY ?
haltere forewing 1 3 hindwing Asian honey bee Bees always have two pairs of wings, the upper is the forewing and the lower is the hind wing.
Flies always have only one pair of wings, the upper or forewings. Only close up can you see that the hind wings are reduced to a club-like structure called a haltere.
hoverfly Fly hind legs are usually thin, cylindrical and very rarely hairy.
Bee hind legs are broad, flattened and at least partly hairy.
hoverfly Bee antennae are prominent, straight or with an ‘elbow’ formed by a bend after the first enlarged segment.
Some flies, mainly midges, have prominent and straight antennae. However the species which most look like bees have short antennae, consisting of a small club with a short thin ‘whip’ on the end.
The HONEY BEE FAMILY - APIDAE
The commercially important bees are all in the very small family Apidae. They differ from the other 1700 species of bees in Australia by having ALL of the characters below left HONEY BEES - APIDAE 1 OTHER BEE FAMILIES
Forewing must have these 3 cells called SUBMARGINAL cells shaped generally as seen above.
Submarginal cells may vary in number, size, shape and proportions. Pictured is just one example.
The antennae must have a bend, called an ‘elbow’, after the first long segment.
Straight antennae like on this Halictid bee.
Rear leg must have this pollen collecting area on the tibia called a corbicula - an expanded smooth area on the outer surface of the tibia.
Rear leg, hairy all over and without a distinct corbicula on the tibia.
Rear leg has no distinct spur on the tibia.
Rear leg on a Halictid bee does have a distinct spur on the tibia.
Is it a EUROPEAN HONEY BEE (A. mellifera) or an ASIAN HONEY BEE (A. cerana)
The following illustrations show living and alcohol preserved specimens of the two bees. Both kinds of specimens will be presented for ID and so differences need to be understood in both states. Apis mellifera live or dry killed specimens * A.mellifera is larger and more robust. * its body is more hairy. * the last segments of the abdomen are hairy between the black stripes. * A.cerana has yellow smoother stripes between these black stripes. This is evident even in discoloured and matted alcohol specimens below. Apis mellifera Apis cerana Apis cerana
alcohol specimens * markedly darker * less hairy * often have mouth parts and stings protruding. If you have whole specimens, the easiest difference between these species is the hind wing venation. The general shape and number of veins is very similar, but A.cerana has an extra vein which is never more than a tiny spur in A.mellifera. Unfortunately many native bees and wasps also have this extra vein. This is very important when looking at detached wings for example in bee eater pellets (next section).
Apis mellifera hind wing
Apis cerana hind wing
USING BEE EATER BIRD PELLETS - (BEP)
This common Australian bird is, as its name suggests, a predator of bees. It has a number of additional habits that make it useful to us in locating bees: 1. It disgorges pellets of indigestible insect parts including identifiable bee wings 2. It congregates in flocks at night in ‘roost trees’ 3. It returns to the same trees to roost each night Examining the disgorged pellets may help to determine if the birds have been eating Asian honey bees.
Locating bee-eater roosting sites requires patience and the ability to identify the distinctive call of the bee-eater. Late each afternoon, all bee-eaters in an area begin to group together and fly, in stages, towards their chosen roost. The observer needs to be able to move about the area, preferably on a bicycle, listening for the calls and following these small groups of birds till they locate where the small groups are coming together at the roost. At the roost, the birds ‘settle down’ quickly for the night and there is almost no indication that the chosen tree may be hosting several hundred birds. Frequently the owner of the property is unaware of the birds.
To collect bee-eater pellets from a roost site:
1. The day before collection, peg out a bed sheet (double bed size) on the ground beneath the most favoured part of the roost tree 2. Do not use a tarpaulin as this will allow rainwater to ‘pool’ 3. Next morning collect the pellets from the sheet into a 100 ml specimen container 4. If there are more than enough pellets to fill the 100 ml container, ensure that pellets are collected from all parts of Photo by Scott Templeton the sheet 5. If there are fewer pellets, collect all 6. Label the specimen with site details and complete the approved specimen form 7. Keep the pellets as dry as possible 8. Do not refrigerate them 9. Remove the sheets regularly for laundry and ensure BEP activities do not offend or disadvantage the property owner 10. Regularly visit all roosts at dusk to confirm that they are still active and identify if any one tree is most favoured as a roost
WING IDENTIFICATION USING WINGS FROM BEE EATER PELLETS
The surveillance program utilizes bee-eater pellets - ie pellets disgorged by bee eater birds. Unfortunately, the pellets preserve more main body bits than wings, and the wings are almost exclusively forewings in a state of dry curled up mess.
Just 2 of the many pellets each bird expels per day About 10 pellets crushed and separated in a petri dish. Forceps or a kitchen fork are useful.
The sample needs to be teased apart to extract all the curled up wings. In this state they are useless for ID, but can be uncurled in alcohol in a clean dish.
One hind wing among many forewings.
Hey presto, covered by alcohol, and 5 to10 seconds later in the microwave oven, the wings uncurl and become useful. Most are forewings, which need to be analysed for very fine differences described on the following pages. Hind wings can be quickly differenciated from A.mellifera but can still be confused with a range of native bees and wasps so care must be taken.
IDENTIFYING SPECIES FROM THE FOREWING
Differences between strains of the same species of bee mean that, using forewings only, some populations of Asian honey bees will be harder to distinguish from European honey bees. Look for the differences on this page first. A more involved method called the ‘cubital index’ works well for some strains, and is explained overleaf. A wing deemed ‘suspect’ by any method, should be compared by all methods.
wing length greater than 8mm
costal cell is see through
Apis mellifera forewing
* Wing length - Apis mellifera is larger than Apis cerana so its wings are longer. However there is variation in both species and some texts show a considerable overlap, so wing length is not an infallible guide. In the Cairns ‘07 incursion A . c e r a n a forewings were usually shorter than 8mm and A . m e l l i f e r a forewings usually longer than 8mm. If the wing tip is missing, measure to the end of the marginal cell and add 0.7 to 0.8mm. * Wing colour - Apis cerana wings are darker overall, more grey-brown compared to a lighter yellow-brown for Apis mellifera . * Costal cell - The upper margin of the forewing has a cell called the costal cell, which in Apis mellifera is see-through, while the Apis cerana costal cell is so dark that it usually appears as if the two veins are joined with no space between. * Marginal cell - A brown streak along the top of the marginal cell is also darker in Apis cerana than in Apis mellifera .
wing length less than 8mm
costal cell is as dark as the veins
Apis cerana forewing
The fore wings of all Apis species bees have the 3 submarginal cells present and shaped roughly as below. Fine differences in the size and shape of these cells can sometimes be enough to distinguish A.mellifera from A.cerana. The cubital index (CI) is a device that can be used to compare honeybees using features in the forewing. The cubital index is simply “a” divided by “b” in the third submarginal cell of the forewing (see images below). The lengths of “a” and “b” are measured (for example with a scale eyepiece) and “a” is divided by “b”. The CI varies between species and this can be used to identify a species. Unfortunately there is also a considerable natural variation in the CI within a species. Refences suggest a fairly “safe” difference between species eg PaDIL www.padil.gov.au shows the following ranges: A.mellifera - CI from 1.65 to 2.95 A.cerana - CI from 3.1 to 5.1 Cubital index measurements varied in 2 recent A.cerana incursions. The following show the CI measurements that were found to be indicative in each case: Darwin in 1998: CI of about 3 indicated A.mellifera; CI of 4 indicated A.cerana Cairns in 2007: CI of 2.3 or lower indicated A.mellifera; CI of 4.4 or higher indicated A.cerana Because of this lack of clarity the CI method is sometimes too fine to call a species without first trying the methods on the previous page. 1st 2nd 3rd submarginal cells c
THE CUBITAL INDEX
Apis mellifera fore wing - ratio of a to b is 2.3 or lower Two other subtle differences are not definitive and should not be primary clues, but can add weight to a suspicion: * vein c is slightly straighter in Apis mellifera, than in Apis cerana * the marginal cell often has a tiny spur at the distal end in Apis cerana
Apis cerana fore wing - ratio of a to b is 4.4 or higher
This publication is intended to offer sound entomological assistance in the identification of Apis cerana. While the authors are confident this will be useful, they also acknowledge that it has limitations: it deals with only one exotic honeybee species and, indeed, the authors’ experience has been with only one subspecies (A.cerana javana), while a number of others exist. No attempt has been made to compare, or even acknowledge, differences between the subspecies.
A.cerana javana is the honeybee that has most often tested Australian biosecurity agencies and, because of it’s potential as an invasive species, it is always met with force, even though it is unlikely to introduce the Varroa destructor mite.
Other exotic honeybees like A.florea, A.dorsata and A.mellifera scutellata may justify a similar publication of their own: in that case, this document may serve as a model. Finally, because this is an entomology publication, it has not, to this point, mentioned non-ento scientific developments in the identification of A.cerana: in fact Biosecurity Queensland’s molecular biology laboratory in Townsville is working on a PCR test that may assist in this work. With further development, this may provide an alternative to some of the techniques described here, particularly for the beeeater pellet program.