At least on this side of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, I find arguments for saving the honey bee to be disingenuous. Don’t get me wrong, my honeybee colonies are among the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed and my love of them cannot be fully expressed in words. However we need to be honest and assess honeybees for what they are: an imported, exotic species.
I want to harvest honey so I’ve imported an exotic species that with proper management will collect nectar and process it into honey. Just like cows or goats processing solar energy of plant matter into meat or milk, pigs harvesting tree fruits converting it to meat and chickens capturing insects and plant matter to turn it into meat.
Honeybees are fantastic pollinators of open flowered organisms like dandelions, tree fruits etc. However their short mouthparts cannot reach into the depths of a closed flower.
Tomatoes and eggplants are among some of the popular garden plants that cannot be pollinated by honeybees. Many other crops like berries, peppers and clovers see more success of pollination via solitary bees. In fact early in its agricultural development, New Zealand was faced with having to import new red clover seed every year, or import pollinators as they were unable to produce seed with the native fauna. They chose an English Bumblebee.
Bumblebees are the family that really deserves conservation efforts over the honeybee. Their long mouthparts let them pollinate just about any nectar-bearing flower including those that honey bees cannot. Populations are declining worldwide due to a number of factors I will cover in future posts.