Honeybees have become the symbol of environment conservation. Experts, however, said that honeybees are the type of bees that people should be least worried about.
Not The Most Endangered Bee Species
Jonas Geldmann and Juan González-Varo, both from the Zoology Department of the University of Cambridge, said that the honeybee is continually replenished through breeding and agriculture.
Other species of bees are the ones that are most in peril and some of them have already disappeared. Most of them live in the wild, hiding away in cavities such as in hollow plant stems and in the ground. These creatures play an important role in the ecosystem by pollinating flowering plants.
Geldmann and González-Varo, however, said that threats to their population are exacerbated by managed bees. In an article published in the journal Science, Geldmann and González-Varo said that breeding the honeybees for their honey fuels the decline of wild bees.
Geldmann said that honeybees match the definition of a massively introduced managed species with numbers that are artificially high. The honeybees compete against wild bees for nectar and pollen at times of the year and in areas where pollen and nectar from crops are scarce. This makes survival more difficult for the wild bees whose population are already threatened by the use of pesticides, viruses, parasites, habitat loss, and nutritional deficiencies.
"Keeping honeybees is an extractive activity. It removes pollen and nectar from the environment, which are natural resources needed by many wild species of bee and other pollinators," said González-Varo.
Artificially-Bred Agricultural Animals
Researchers said that unlike wild species of bees, honeybees are agricultural animals whose difference from other livestock is their ability to roam beyond their enclosures.
"Honeybees are artificially-bred agricultural animals similar to livestock such as pigs and cows. But this livestock can roam beyond any enclosures to disrupt local ecosystems through competition and disease," González-Varo said.
Just like other farmed animals though, overcrowding and homogenous diets have impacted the immune systems of managed bees, driving the increase of pathogen rates in commercial hives.
The diseases are then transmitted to the wild species when they share the same flowers. It's just like what could happen if a sick person that has contagious infection shares his cup of coffee with other people.
Because of the threat that honeybees pose to wild pollinators, the researchers said that there needs to be a better way to control managed honeybee hives.
"Research shows that managed honey bees can harm wild pollinator species, providing an urgent incentive to change honey bee management practices," Geldmann and González-Varo wrote.