The Role of Honey Bees in Natural Areas - A Conversation
Talk 1, Rich Hatfield:
Honey Bees in the Pollination Networks of Natural Areas? An Overview and Best Management Practices
The question of whether introduced honey bees belong on public lands and natural areas in North America has been debated for decades. As more areas of natural habitat that formerly provided resources for pollinators are converted to agricultural and suburban uses, the pressures for the beekeeping industry to find pesticide-free areas in which honey bees can forage while they are not actively pollinating crop fields are increasing. As a result, there is a critical need to present evidence-based considerations for landowners and managers of public lands and natural areas that are considering whether honey bees would be appropriate in these landscapes, and if so, the timing, duration, and numbers of hives that should be allowed.
While honey bees are essential pollinators in our agricultural environment, their role in public lands and natural areas is less clear. There is evidence that, at least in some cases, honey bees can alter plant and native bee communities because of their foraging habits, relatively high level of pathogen loads, degree of resource (pollen and nectar) removal, and their interactions with native bees.
This talk will discuss the potential for competition with native bees and other pollinators and disease transfer from honey bees to native bee species and will present science based recommendations for any land manager who is considering placing honey bees in natural areas where native pollinators might be impacted.
Talk 2, Vicki Wojcik:
Flora Resource Competition Between Honey Bees and Wild Bees: Is There Clear Evidence and Can We Guide Management and Conservation?
More and more natural area managers are faced with a conflict between requests to support honey bee productivity, vital to agriculture, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of native ecosystems and protecting wild bee species. Opinions are strong on the subject, but the body of evidence is limited. Critique and assessment of the existing body of published literature focusing on studies that can support best management resulted in 19 experimental papers. Indirect measures of competition examining foraging patterns and behavior yielded equivocal results. Direct measures of reproduction and growth were investigated in only seven studies, with six indicating negative impacts to wild bees. Key studies will be discussed and reviewed for insight into managing natural areas and supporting wild pollinators.