Native bee populations have been in decline, with pesticides, disease, habitat loss and climate change playing major roles. Join York University biologists Dr. Sheila Colla and Dr. Amro Zayed on Thursday, May 19 at 12pm as they discuss online the status of native pollinators and how the average person can help save declining pollinators and contribute important scientific data while having fun.
Honey Bees vs. Native Bees
In helping pollinators, it’s important to distinguish between honey bees and native bees. World Bee Day, marked on May 20, focuses on the the welfare of domesticated non-native honey bees. These are the bees used in commercial honey production and familiar to us through the practice of beekeeping. It is often mistakenly believed that honey bees are threatened like other pollinators. Though beekeepers face challenges, there are more honey bees alive than at any point in history, and increasing the number of honeybees as a way to help raise the pollinator population may not be the best idea.
Scientists have noted that competition with honey bees may play a role in the reduction of the native bee population. In a 2017 report in Conservation Letters, researchers calculated that during three months, honey bees in a typical 40-hive apiary collect the equivalent amount of pollen and nectar as 4 million solitary wild bees. Bred to be excellent foragers, honeybees can take food resources away from native species.
Honey bees also carry diseases that can infect natives, including deformed wing virus and the parasite Crithidia bombi. Researchers have found that native bees near apiaries can suffer a high incidence of such illnesses.
Read the National Wildlife Foundation post The Truth About Honey Bees: Raising nonnatives does not “save the bees”—and may harm them.