Rare Bee Given Death Sentence by Government Officials Makes Daring Escape

A bee sentenced to death has escaped and is on the loose in England.

The insect was a mason bee, belonging to the species osmia avosetta, usually only found in Iran and Turkey. It's believed it climbed into the luggage of a family from Bristol who returned from a vacation in Dalman, Turkey, last week.

Soon after their return, Ashley Toy, 49, discovered a cocoon made of petals in his conservatory. The next morning his daughter Amelia, 19, saw the bee outside. Since the discovery, Toys have left the back door open every morning, watching as the bee made a number of nests from petals from the family's hydrangeas.

O. avosetta build their unique cocoons, generally found in the ground, as nests for larvae to grow in.

"Every morning it comes in when we open the door," Amelia Toy told the Daily Mail. "Then it goes in and out, in and out. I've never seen anything like it before."

Amelia uncovered the species their stowaway belonged to and called the British Beekeepers Association for advice. The association, in turn, called the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which ordered the Toys to destroy the bee, due to the risk it posed to native species.

"I know since they said it could possibly harm other bees that it had to be done, as harsh as it sounds," Amelia told the Telegraph.

Unfortunately, she revealed that the winged stinger escaped. "It didn't appear, so we weren't able to capture the bee."

bee stock photo
Government officials worry an invasive species could spread disease among native bees, flowers and other animals. Susanne Schulz/Getty

The British Beekeepers Association warns the Turkish import could spread diseases to native species, or even breed with local bees and eventually become the dominant species. For more than a decade, beekeepers around the world have struggled against record losses of honeybee colonies, at rates of 30 to 40 percent annually.

But Tim Lovett, a former president of the organization, told the Telegraph it's unlikely one bee would cause much trouble—especially as the odds of cross-breeding are pretty slim.

Insect invaders are a legitimate problem, though: Asian hornets were discovered in Britain in 2004. A single hornet can eat 50 honey bees in a single day. It's believed they were first introduced via a shipment of flowerpots from China.

It's illegal to knowingly release a non-native species into the wild.