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OSAKA (Kyodo) A former beekeeper has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to smuggle Chinese honeybees into Japan, police said Tuesday.

Toshihiro Azuma, 35, a former beekeeper in Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture, allegedly tried in late April to import about 30 bees from China via international mail without the necessary documentation.

Importing the bees violates regulations for preventing infectious livestock diseases because China isn’t on the list of approved bee exporters.

Azuma denied the charges, the police said.

The bees were found when a customs official checked a small parcel addressed to Azuma, according to the farm ministry’s animal quarantine station at Kansai International Airport.

Bees are vital for pollinating crops, but Australia — Japan’s biggest source of honey bees — is suffering from a hive-collapse epidemic that has halted shipments to Japan, prompting the domestic bee industry to hunt for other bee-exporting countries.

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