Beekeepers Fear Sting Of Imported Australian Hives

ATWATER, Calif. (AP) - Beekeepers contending with a mysterious ailment that led to the disappearance of millions of honeybees now fear imported Australian bees might carry a deadly parasite into the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has allowed shipments of Australian bees to resume despite concerns by some of its own scientists.

Australia had been sending the insects across the Pacific for four years to replace hives devastated by the so-called colony collapse disorder.

Six weeks ago the Australian government stopped the shipments, saying it could no longer be certain the hives were free of a smaller, aggressive bee that has infested areas near the Great Barrier Reef. Scientists say the smaller bee could harbor a deadly mite.

Federal regulators are allowing the bee shipments from Australia to resume with some precautions, a move that alarms beekeepers here.

Ken Haff, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association, called the decision a slap in the face to U.S. beekeepers.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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