A rare bee that was sentenced to death by the UK government because it posed a threat to British species has escaped.
The insect, which is thought to be from the osmia avosetta species of mason bee, was discovered in Bristol after a family brought it back in their luggage from Turkey.
When the British Beekeepers Association learned of the discovery, they warned it could have a “devastating effect” on British bees.
The Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had announced plans to capture and kill the insect.
However, the family who found it revealed on Tuesday that the bee had taken flight before anyone could catch it.
The bee had been constructing cocoons out of flower petals in the Toy family’s conservatory since they returned from a trip to Dalaman, Turkey.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), part of Defra, has said it is planning to collect the cocoons for DNA testing.
“We are taking prompt action to collect any cocoons from the house which will be then assessed by experts,” the APHA said.
“We continue to work with the National Bee Unit and their nationwide network of bee inspectors to monitor the situation.”
The APHA has asked anyone who has seen a potentially non-native bee to report it to a local beekeeping association.
The Toy family said they thought the bee, which is generally found in Turkey and the Middle East, made its way into their suitcases while they were on holiday.
However, they only discovered the insect when Ashley Toy found a petal cocoon in their home in Bristol.
Osmia avosetta bees are notable for the use of flower petals to construct nests for larvae, which was first observed by two research teams in Turkey and Iran on the same day in 2009.
The Toy family’s case is thought to be the first time this type of mason bee has been found in the UK.
Experts have warned that the insect could endanger British bees by spreading viruses to native species, or by multiplying and eventually outcompeting British species.
When asked about the decision to kill the bee, Amelia Toy, a 19-year-old family member, said:
“Well I know since they said it could possibly harm other bees that it had to be done, as harsh as it sounds.
“Obviously we’re going to listen to their advice. My family aren’t the experts.
“We don’t really have knowledge of bees, so we obviously have to listen to them.”