I found the May 23 article “Buzz Kill” interesting about the problems facing honeybees, and I have a great deal of sympathy for commercial beekeepers who are experiencing losses. However, I feel it would have been helpful for the article to include the fact that our native bees are in even more trouble than non-native honeybees, as many native species are in danger of extinction. (Note: All honeybees are European; there’s no such thing as a U.S. honeybee.)
For many of our crops, native bees are more effective pollinators than honeybees; if we lose them, honeybees will not be able to take up the slack in either croplands or natural ecosystems. The hyperfocus on honeybees overshadows the ecological importance of our 4,000 species of native bees, and the serious problems caused by pesticides and habitat loss.
Howard Kerr’s statement that we need honeybees on a 1-½ grid system across the state ignores the recent research about negative impacts of honeybees on native bees in natural areas, including competition with native bees for floral resources, pollination of non-native invasive plants, spread of disease and parasites, and interference with the pollination of native plant species. Best management practices being recommended by entomologists are to keep honeybee hives at least 4 miles away from natural areas.
I am in full agreement that honeybees are extremely important for agriculture, but they should be considered and managed as the livestock they are. Rather than encouraging people to take up backyard beekeeping, thereby risking associated negative impacts to native bees, it would be far more beneficial for all pollinators if we simply plant the flowering native trees, shrubs and wildflowers they require. As a scientist at Xerces Society cautions, keeping honeybees for pollinator conservation is like keeping chickens for bird conservation.
Ellejoy Crossing Way