Honey bees are not native to North America, but to Europe and Asia. The front range of Colorado has over 500 species of native pollinating bees, none of which are honey bees, but are just as important. Most of our native pollinating bees are more solitary than honey bees and tend to live in the ground as opposed to the colonies that honeybees live in. The habitats of our native pollinators are threatened by land development, concrete, parking lots, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t tend to these other pollinators the way we can honey bees.
Because honey bees are colonized, we are able to create habitats for them and care for them, and that is where beekeeping comes in. You should be a bee keeper because you want to contribute to the good health of bees in general. This means that harvesting honey probably shouldn’t be your main objective. Keep a healthy hive, and rejoice in any surplus that they provide.
You don’t have to be a bee keeper to help save the bees. Be a good steward of the earth, that is the best way you can contribute to the habitat and well-being of all of our pollinators, beekeeper or not.
This article explains how honey bees were introduced to North America in the 17th century. A few decades ago, an unfortunate parasite was also introduced to North America, and it has been threatening honey bees ever since. It is called the Varroa mite.
There are currently 3 major threats to honey bees: varroa mites, the use of pesticides , and diminishing food resources.
Varroa mites are currently the number one threat to bee colonies in North America. Varroa mites are parasites that attach to the bee, feed on the bee, and inject viruses into the bee. They are most commonly transmitted from hive to hive via other bees coming into the hive to rob honey or find a new home, or at pollination sites. Furthermore, 75% of these mites live under the cappings of the brood (babies who are still developing). So bees are being weakened before they are even born. Varroa mites reach their highest level of infestation at the end of the beekeeping season. They weaken the hive so that the likelihood of the hive surviving through winter is greatly threatened. Your number one objective should be to keep varroa mites under control throughout the season through diligent mite treatment.
Pesticides are the second threat to bees. Harmful pesticides used for crop management kill bees. Herbicides that do not kill bees show up in honey. Bee an advocate for limiting pesticide use and avoid using it in your own garden, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Buy local organic foods when possible to support local growers who are farming responsibly.
Nutrition is the 3rd threat. Plant bee forage instead of lawns. Encourage your community to do the same! Providing a habitat for bees even if you aren’t a beekeeper.
You don’t have to be a beekeeper to save the bees! Do your part where you can by reducing the use pesticides and herbicides and by providing a bee habitat.