Think Twice About Whatever It Takes For Honeybees

A honey bee visits a blooming catmint plant in New Mexico. ROBERT ALEXANDER/GETTY IMAGES

Since Milo’s 2011 post on this topic we have paid attention to the plight of honey bees and their human keepers, and might have had a “whatever it takes” perspective on letting those human keepers find solutions to keep their colonies alive. Jennifer Oldham’s article in Yale e360 has us thinking twice:

Will Putting Honey Bees on Public Lands Threaten Native Bees?

As suitable sites become scarce, commercial beekeepers are increasingly moving their hives to U.S. public lands. But scientists warn that the millions of introduced honey bees pose a risk to native species, outcompeting them for pollen and altering fragile plant communities.

Beekeeper Dennis Cox checks his hives in Strawberry Valley, Utah in July. JENNIFER OLDHAM / YALE E360

Honey bees heavy with pollen and nectar foraged from wildflowers on Utah’s Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest collide with tall grass and tumble to the ground. They are attempting to land alongside a hive, and I watch as they struggle to stand, fly into the box, and disgorge nectar to be made into honey.

The pollinators belong to a 96-hive apiary, trucked here to Logan Canyon for the summer to rest and rebuild their population, replenishing bees lost to disease and pesticides after months pollinating California’s almond groves. By Labor Day, the yard could house 5 million domesticated pollinators.

The honey bees are guests among about 300 native bee species in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache, including metallic green sweat bees and iridescent blue mason bees, that comb meadows rich with indigo delphinium, yellow daisies, and pumpkin-colored Indian paintbrush. Darren Cox, who owns the apiary, says the forest’s mountain snowberry shrubs make the best-tasting honey.

Cox, in a white nylon suit, elbow-length gloves and helmet covered with a veil, puffs smoke into a dove gray hive and pries out a frame coated with honey. He scrapes the viscous liquid into a paper cup.

“It’s a good flower year,” he says, handing me the honey, which he sells at airports and high-end department stores. He pulls off a glove, plunges a finger into the honeycomb and lifts it under his mask and into his mouth. “That’s pretty good,” he says. “My mom named this honey snowberry — it’s our best seller.”…

Read the whole story here.

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