Will you be My Honey (Bee)?
What pollinates 80% of the fruit, vegetables, and seed crops in the U.S. while also providing us with a sweet treat that never spoils?
That’s right, it’s honeybees! Unlike other native bees who are solitary, honeybees have large colonies which have allowed them to perfect the creation and storage of honey for at least 150 million years. Despite their incredible hive organization, you may have heard the words “colony collapse” buzzing around. This term has only been used recently even though honeybee populations have been declining over the last thirty years. The decline has been linked to pathogens, parasites, pesticides, herbicides, but mostly due to long-distance transportation.
Honeybees have always been coveted by farmers for their ability to pollinate crops. To make one pound of honey, an average of 2 million flowers must be visited. Therefore, migratory beekeeping has developed into a giant industry where truckloads of bees are transported across the country right before crops flower. The extended unnatural journeys stress the bees and compound the problems that colonies already face, leading up to 90% losses in hive population in some cases.
Considering these startling declines, many farmers are looking to native bees to keep up with their pollination demands, and they’re in luck! While native bees can’t be hauled to fields in large number, they don’t suffer from colony collapse. Studies have also shown how crucial they can be in pollinating many crops including watermelon and cranberries. Native bees are also up to three times better at collecting and distributing pollen than honeybees. So maybe we should let our local bees take care of our farms and leave the tasty treat production to the honeybees.
Mikaela Trexell is an aspiring entomologist who plans to study at UW-Madison this fall. When not sifting through the Dollar Store for hidden treasures, celebrating National Honey Bee Day on August 15th, or enjoying the Waukesha Farmer's Market, she works as an intern at Be Green Pro.
Gashler, K. (2011, October 24). Native bees are better pollinators, more plentiful than honeybees, finds entomologist. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/10/native-bees-are-better-pollinators-honeybees
Schulz, D. (n.d.). Benefits of Honey & Honey Bee FAQ. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.wnacres.com/honey-faq-benefits-of-honey/
Tenenbaum, D. (2010, April 13). As honeybee colonies collapse, can native bees handle pollination? Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://news.wisc.edu/as-honeybee-colonies-collapse-can-native-bees-handle-pollination-2/