Honey bees seem to be the rational expansion of gardening. The thought of sharing in their bounty makes my head swim.
Both wild bees and honey bees have always visited my gardens and I have moved among them 50 years or so without getting stung. But the possibility has always been there.
The United States has nearly 4000 species of native bees and New Mexico has over 500 species. Native bees do not produce enough honey to share with us and they are not aggressive because they only feed themselves and don’t need to command a large territory. Native bees pollinate most of our native plants and also work our gardens if we don’t use pesticides. Unlike honey bees, many are dormant during the growing season, they can chill because they produce “enough” for themselves and their offspring in a short time and do not hoard or sell honey. Seems a rational approach. Their physical ranges overlap with other bee species, but their “timing” does not.
Just guessing but I imagine most of the bees I have peacefully coexisted with over the decades have been native.
New Mexico State University started a Native Bee Pollinator Project in 2001 because they are looking for bee species that are dormant during corporate monoculture pesticide spraying. They are hoping to find a way for destructive poison spraying to continue unabated. Big Chem is likely funding or influencing this expensive program that barely mentions that native bees are almost nonexistent near farms that spray.
Honey Bee populations that escaped domestication naturalized all over the United States. They mostly came from bee hives used with farming and mostly get the downside of living too close to monocultural pesticide spraying.
Mites are often cited as part of the problem of colony collapse disorder. I do not buy into this diversion from poison use. Healthy populations are not particularly susceptible to these types of problems. Unhealthy populations have pandemics.
What factors affect Honey Bee health? Endless rounds of different poisons, so they can’t build up tolerance. Corporate monocultiral farmers seldom have their own hives because pollinators are only need “in season” and have become migrant workers instead of part of the farm ecosystem.
A new industry was born, Big Bees, that truck Honey Bee populations all over the country to use as migrant laborers for Big Ag. Big Ag is not as careful of when it sprays toxins on Big Bees as it might if they were Big Ag Bees. The act of trucking is very stressful and hives must be “sedated” during each move with attendant recovery time.
The NMSU native bee program and it’s affiliates are enjoining American gardeners to create native bee habitat to provide havens for their survival so they will then cover pollinating adjacent farm fields when needed for crops. You know, because Big Ag/Big Chem cannot be held accountable for killing their own pollinators. This is called Externalizing Costs in business school and is highly recommended behavior.
In spite of NMSU’s support of covering our food with toxins that decimate needed insect and bee species, they are finding out interesting information about the native species that may also go extinct.
Honey bees are approaching extinction in the US and even in Europe. I do not live adjacent to farmland, so may have sufficient room to feed a hive or three of Honey Bees. In three years I have put out hundreds of thousands of local wildflower seeds on my five acres to increase the food supply for Honey Bees in preparation for bring them into my circular economy and my Food Forest.
My reasons for doing so are selfish. As a member of my circular economy I cannot steal honey from native bees. No nectar of the gods for me! However, native bees perform the work of pollination with no work from me, a factor I like in my Food Forest. Lots of workers that are not Rebecca Treeseed.
Still… the draw of honey is powerful. I have to give up some of my lazy ways to capture and enslave Honey Bees. I am gathering information about how to do that successfully… meaning how to steal honey without injury from the owners… or injury to the owners.
What is my contribution to Honey Bees? No poisons first and foremost. Lots of food sources brought in through continued seed collection, for sure. I can provide protection from bears who not only take honey, but destroy Honey Bee homes. As I study up on Honey Bee care, I will take note of my contributions and perform them faithfully.