We must look deeper into this important issue, as [these beekeepers’] efforts, while well-meaning, are misguided. This is for two reasons — honey bees are not native to the Americas and the loss of pollinators is primarily due to habitat loss and thus remedial initiatives should focus on planting bee-friendly perennials, shrubs, and trees, not encouraging invasive insects.
We grow up with an image of what a bee is, and most of us like honey, but our native bees differ in a number of ways.
They can pollinate 15 times more effectively than a honey bee. They are solitary and lay their eggs typically in holes in logs or in the ground. These include mason, carpenter, miner, sweat, leaf-cutter. The exception is the bumblebee — it makes a nest, containing about 100 bees. Only honey bees utilize hives — which can contain 50,000 individuals.
As can be deduced, setting up honey bee hives puts increased pressure on our already stressed native pollinators. (Some species are nearing extinction.) This group includes butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, wasps and bats. All evolved locally with our native plants.
For those interested in food security and helping the environment, I would encourage turning over any part of a yard, verge, or balcony to pollen and nectar-rich plants and installing mason bee boxes. If given the chance, nature rebounds. Build it and they will come.
Howard Abel, North Vancouver