Alien Honeybees Detrimental
Read the following article with interest as it highlights what is ‘already’ a global problem, that of introducing none native species in this instance honeybees.
For example, the western honey bee Apis Mellifera has several sub-species, these sub-species have adapted to the local climate, flora, and fauna over millennia.
One such sub-species, the Northern European Honeybee A.m.m (Apis mellifera mellifera), has evolved as a sub-species over the last 8000 years, having been isolated by the most recent ice age, A.m.m spans Northern Europe, Britain, Nordics and across towards western Russia, historically it covered a much larger area.
this evolution has given it a characteristic stocky body, a brown / near black appearance that does not carry such a characteristic stripey body i.e. yellow stripes of its Italian and Grey stripes of its Eastern European Carniolan cousins.
Problems arise when hybridisation occurs when sub-species interbreed, some unpleasant results can occur, such as very defensive tendencies bordering on aggressiveness, some beekeepers have also reported they are harder to handle.
As an example, in the UK, tens of thousands of sub-species are imported, in particular, Italian and Carniolan queens and packages of bees, the resultant hybridisation over decades has mongrelised a large number of honeybees in the UK, fortunately there is a national association who are dedicated to “the conservation, re-introduction, study, selection, and improvement of native or near-native honey bees of Britain and Ireland”.
Germany has protected the European Dark Bee, it is on their endangered domestic breeds list, they have successfully ceased importation of other sub-species, there is some appetite in the UK to do the same, however, as a more passive nation it is doubtful it will garner traction.
The following article demonstrates one of the hidden impacts when none native species are suddenly introduced to an area.
‘Alien’ honeybees in Egypt could be causing some plants to go extinct, researchers warn
- The introduction of ‘alien’ bee species is supposed to provide economic support
- However, the support they provide might come at the cost of the environment
- Researchers have concluded that these species can be harmful to native species
- A new study outlines why introducing alien bee species might be dangerous
The introduction of ‘alien’ bees – meaning species that are not native – into a region in Egypt might be killing off some plant species as well as native bees in the area, researchers have found.
Certain plants that rely on interactions with native bees are threatened by the newcomers.
Additionally, the native bees are not able to compete with the alien bee species.
The research team, from Anglia Ruskin University in England, has concluded that the introduction of non-native bees into regions that aren’t accustomed to them could be harmful to the environment.
The study was conducted in the St Katherine Protectorate region of South Sinai, Egypt, and the results were published in the journal Diversity and Distributions.
Dr Olivia Norfolk led the research team, which coordinated with scientists from the University of Nottingham.
The researchers analyzed the interactions between bees and plants in the mountainous region, which supports many endemic plants as well as pollinators that are range-restricted and whose futures are unstable given the introduction of alien honeybees.
The region in which the research was conducted in known for its Bedouin orchard gardens.
But the new species might be threatening the entire environment, according to the new study, which concluded that the new bees are not as specific in their habits.
The report explained: ‘The study found that introduced honeybees were extremely generalized in their foraging behavior, visiting 55 percent of available plant species.
‘However, they made few visits to range-restricted plants and showed high levels of resource overlap with range-restricted bees.’
The researchers explained why this is dangerous, citing the fact that there aren’t many resources in the area to begin with so the newcomers make survival for the native bees more challenging.
‘In this arid, resource-limited environment, the presence of high numbers of super-generalist honeybees may pose a competitive threat to native bees, particularly in periods of drought,’ the study said.
It continued: ‘A previous study in California showed that high numbers of feral honeybees reduced bumblebee populations through intensified competition over floral resources.’
Range-restricted plants in the gardens are also at risk because of the change. The researchers described these plants as ‘significantly more specialized than wider-ranged counterparts’, which means that they depend on range-restricted bees more so than the alien bees.
The report emphasized the severity of the problem that could lead to the eventual extinction of certain species.
It said: ‘The effects of floral competition, where honeybees out-compete more efficient native pollinators, could lead to a drop in native bee visitation and a subsequent decrease in their reproductive success.’
Dr Norfolk said: ‘In this mountain system, range-restricted plants exhibited much higher levels of specialization than their pollinators, suggesting that they may be more vulnerable to extinction.
‘Range-restricted pollinators exhibited high resource overlap with the super-abundant honeybee, which could lead to resource competition.’
This problem could have far-reaching consequences and lead to a drastically different environment than the one that exists now.
Dr Norfolk explained: ‘Even a small reduction in the population size of range-restricted bees could be detrimental for the reproductive success of range-restricted plants, which depend on low numbers of specialized interactions.’
She also spoke of the reason alien bees are often brought to communities in the first place, saying: ‘The introduction of honeybee hives is a common strategy encouraged by charities and NGOs to supplement livelihoods in rural regions.
‘Our research suggests that hives should be introduced with caution because super-generalist honeybees compete with native pollinators and can cause pollination risks for range-restricted plants.’
The intention may not be worth the risk of harm done to the environment, Dr Norfolk concluded.
‘Any economic benefits associated with honey production must be balanced against the negative impacts to local wildlife, such as the potential extinction of endemic plant species of high conservation concern,’ she said.
Curated from: dailymail.co.uk