Native bee advocates rightly call honey bees livestock animals. But the argument that follows — that their health is therefore not a conservation issue — is misguided.
By Rebecca Ellis
April 30, 2019
With reports of declining insect populations worldwide, or what George Monbiot calls an “insectageddon,” there is growing concern about the health of pollinators. This in turn has led to increasing interest in urban beekeeping, pollinator gardening and urban bee advocacy.
Yet there is also a growing backlash against urban honey bees. Some native bee advocates argue that in North America, honey bees, which were brought to the Americas by European colonialists, belong in the monocultured fields of industrial agriculture, where they are critical for crop pollination, not cities.
As a political ecologist who researches the relationship between people and urban bees (both those that are managed and those that are wild), I am concerned about the growing antagonism between people who should be allies in the struggle against industrial agriculture.
Are native bees and honey bees competitors?
Some entomologists and native bee advocates are concerned that when managed honey bees and wild bees compete for sources of nectar and pollen, the wild bees lose.
Scientists studying the effects of managed bees on wild bees have seen mixed results. A recent analysis revealed that 10 of 19 experimental studies showed some evidence of competition between honey bees and wild bees, mostly in natural areas near agricultural fields.