International Bee Day … save the bees!

Synopsis : Bentleys, beewash, robot hives and why maximum tasks are seeking to save the incorrect bees. One thing for everybody for International Bee Day the next day.


The Bentley Continental GTC convertible is an unbelievable instance of a luxurious automotive. Beautiful within, with cut up leather-based upholstery, a 46-speaker Hello-Fi gadget and the very greatest picket veneer completed with unobtainium trim. Surprising outdoor, with a gloss carbon fibre frame equipment and lashings of ‘racetrack perspective’ .

And the efficiency!

The 6 litre, 650 bhp engine delivers 900 Nm of torque, giving a 0-60 mph time of simply 3.6 seconds and a best pace in far more than 200 mph.

In fact, all that efficiency comes at a price … the gasoline intake is at perfect ~20 mpg and the CO2 emissions exceed 300 g/km .

The ones final two figures are not likely to hassle maximum shoppers, however – as the sector races in opposition to exceeding the 1.5°C threshold by means of 2027 – they do give a contribution to local weather exchange.

Brrrm brrrm!

Thankfully, Bentley are doing their bit to scale back the carbon footprint (of manufacture ); the Crewe manufacturing facility website has been qualified carbon impartial since 2019 and so they’ve created a ‘inexperienced wall’ containing 2600 crops to filter toxins and mud, which additionally produces 40 kg of oxygen a yr .

And, in fact, they’ve additionally were given bees.

In case you are occupied with contributing to biodiversity and ecosystem services and products, like pollination, you get bees … and, naturally (no pun meant), by means of doing that you simply’re additionally ’saving the bees’.

Bentley have about 10 hives at Crewe, housing some very yellow taking a look ‘British Apis Mellifera’ (sic) that produce about 200 jars of honey a yr.

However it’s no longer simply Bentley who’re ’saving the bees’.

Save the bees

Hold on.

Which bees?

Virtually at all times, when an organization mentions one thing about saving the bees, they imply honey bees.

In particular Apis mellifera.

There are companies that may give controlled hives. For a price (continuously really extensive) the website hosting corporate can declare they’re doing their bit for ‘biodiversity and the surroundings’.

Some beekeeping associations even were given in at the act, with ‘sponsor a hive’ tasks and it turns available in the market also are a load of sponsor a hive business corporations available in the market as effectively.

There’s a complete trade aiming to ‘save the bees’ by means of introducing new beehives into the surroundings, filling them with honey bees and managing them for benefit (Oh sure … and the environmental advantages blah, blah, blah.).

However it doesn’t forestall there.

Honey bees are so threatened (it appears) that there are different companies additionally serving to save them. And, frankly, the price range right here make plonking a couple of Nationwide hives outdoor a manufacturing facility in Crewe appear to be tokenism.

I’m no longer going to offer an exhaustive assessment of those … it’s all slightly miserable and so they’re all a lot of a muchness.

How about Beewise, the author of the first-in-class robot self reliant good beehive?

The Beewise ‘Beehome’ robot beehive

General investment (nowadays 2022) used to be about $120 million. They declare to save lots of the bees (clearly), support yields and support pollination.

For sure the era – just like the Bentley – could be very spectacular. Automated inspection and imaging of each and every body, computerized swarm keep an eye on and non-chemical Varroa keep an eye on.

How do they take away, symbol and go back frames with out squashing bees?

How do they do swarm keep an eye on?

And the way efficient is their non-chemical mite keep an eye on?

No main points I’m afraid, and I didn’t glance too in moderation as my cynicism were given the easier of me.

Do those bees – which means honey bees – want saving?

The selected few one

Honey bees belong to the genus Apis. The phrase Apis in truth manner ‘bee’ (even though, as we’ll see, there are many different bees as effectively that aren’t individuals of the genus Apis). Apis mellifera – the honey bee virtually all readers of this website will set up – is the western honey bee.

Different individuals of the genus Apis additionally acquire and retailer nectar which people exploit. In addition they all do waggle dances and I’ve in the past indexed them when discussing the evolutionary conservation of those dances.

On the other hand, there are handiest 8 extant species of honey bee and handiest Apis mellifera will get any consideration in those ‘save the bees’ tasks.

Honey bees (i.e. the genus Apis) in truth constitute handiest 0.04% of the sector’s bee species.

There are over 20,000 bee species globally, with handiest Apis sp., the eusocial bumblebees (e.g. Bombus) and solitary polyester bees (e.g. Colletes) – in combination accounting for ~4% of overall species – being even vaguely well-studied.

The worldwide distribution of bees has just lately been exhaustively mapped (Orr et al., 2021). It is rather asymmetric (a “bimodal latitudinal gradient” because you requested), with some areas having quite a lot of species, and others – strangely together with many tropical environments – with only a few.

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Why does the point of interest on Apis mellifera subject?

Smartly, by means of targeting simply one of the most 20,355 recognized species, we’re ignoring the remaining … and we’d also be inflicting further injury to one of the most different 20,354 species.


However what about Colony Cave in Dysfunction of honey bees?

What concerning the excessively top annual overwinter colony losses of honey bees?

What concerning the shortages of honey bees to pollinate almond vegetation?

And what about all the ones nasty pests and parasites that threaten our cherished honey bees?

A part of the explanation we’re so conscious about the threats to honey bees is, a) as a result of people have lived along (and controlled) honey bees for millennia, and – inevitably, and on account of this – b) their financial significance manner that we have got studied them widely.

I’m no longer claiming that honey bees don’t face demanding situations, however I’m pronouncing that the opposite 99.96% of bees almost definitely face most of the similar demanding situations … and most likely further ones because of our single-minded center of attention on honey bees.

Lack of habitat, local weather exchange, insecticides and many others. are all equivalent alternative environmental threats.

What’s extra, many of those threats might be much more destructive to bee species different than honey bees.

The latter are generalists. They’ll luckily discuss with oil seed rape, lime, blackberry and clover, accumulating nectar and pollen from each and every.

However many bees are experts. There are 14 Colletes species that just about completely discuss with flora of the Asteroideae circle of relatives (Müller & Kuhlmann, 2008). Take note, those Colletes bees are one of the most perfect studied. There’s any other 19,521 species that we all know little or not anything about.

Should you’re a consultant solitary pollinating bee that has co-evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, visiting an overly slender vary of flower species, then your long-term potentialities don’t glance too promising if the flora get started blooming previous and previous because of local weather exchange (‘de-synchronization’ as it’s termed, Schenk et al., 2017).

Honey bee numbers

Regardless of all of the ones threats to honey bees indexed above, the quantity of controlled colonies continues to inexorably build up, a minimum of globally.

Phiri et al., (2022) have carried out an research of controlled honey bee hive numbers and honey and wax manufacturing over greater than part a century (1961 to 2017). Globally, colony numbers larger 85% to 91 million (and now exceed 101 million), with concomitant will increase in honey and beeswax manufacturing, up 181% and 116% respectively.

Honey bee hive numbers 1961-2017 a) share exchange, and b) exchange in step with capita.

No longer handiest that, however colonies are being controlled extra productively as the once a year honey yield in step with colony is up 45% from ~11 kg to ~16 kg.

Those will increase aren’t frivolously disbursed. Europe and america each confirmed a lower in colony numbers, however those have been greater than offset by means of will increase in different portions of the sector. It’s no longer transparent what the discounts in america and Europe have been because of; while it can be illness/local weather exchange/insecticides (or no matter) additionally it is most probably that financial elements are a major factor.

If supermarkets in those advanced markets promote imported honey for $1/jar there’s little incentive for business beekeepers – the one ones ready to provide within the amounts required – to check out and compete.

Why lose cash farming bees when you need to lose slightly much less cash farming sheep?

Extra honey bees … however extra other people as effectively

There’s a massive world call for for honey and lots of international locations produce considerably not up to they devour. Even supposing the full traits in hive numbers and honey manufacturing are upward, so is the worldwide inhabitants.

International inhabitants, exact and predicted

Between 1961 and 2017 the inhabitants larger 144% (from 3.1 to 7.5 billion, and now exceeds 8 billion), which means we’re in truth managing fewer hives in step with capita in lots of portions of the sector.

Thankfully, as a result of honey manufacturing in step with hive has larger, the honey manufacturing in step with capita has typically stored up (apart from Oceania).

Honey manufacturing 1961-2017 a) share exchange and, b) exchange in step with capita.

Because the human inhabitants continues to extend, so will the call for for honey. This call for is prone to proceed to extend till the worldwide inhabitants plateaus in ~55 years at round 10.5 billion.

I’m not likely to be round to peer that, however I absolutely be expecting that the environmental drive exerted by means of 10 billion other people to be a lot, a lot worse than it’s these days.

In particular if a few of them pressure Bentleys.

Controlled and wild bees

While we don’t but totally perceive the interaction of controlled honey bees and wild local bees (which necessarily manner anything else different than Apis mellifera) the proof increasingly more means that pageant is in most cases to the detriment of the wild bee populations.

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5 years in the past the tale used to be so much much less transparent (Mallinger et al., 2017) however the penalties of pageant in some environments have now been higher studied and the consequences are hanging.

I’m no longer going to exhaustively assessment the literature as a result of I’ve no longer learn all of it … however right here’s a few examples:

Henry & Rodet (2018) studied nectar and pollen foraging good fortune in Mediterranean scrubland. Prime density beekeeping diminished selection of each nectar and pollen by means of wild bees for 600-1100 metres across the apiaries. Honey bees have been ~15 instances extra a lot of within the setting and, thru aggressive exclusion, considerably diminished wild bee numbers and their foraging good fortune.

Extra just lately Angelella et al., (2021) have proven that the presence of honey bees considerably diminished wild bee abundance (by means of 48%) and species richness (by means of 20%) on strawberry and iciness squash farms. What’s extra, the presence of honey bees diminished strawberry fruit set suggesting that wild bees have been being outcompeted within the setting and so pollinated fewer strawberry crops (which can be higher at pollinating strawberry crops than honey bees) .

In the similar learn about, Angelella et al., (2021) confirmed that the presence of presented ‘wildflower strips’ throughout the farms didn’t mitigate the unfavourable affects of honey bees. The intended environmental growth used to be outweighed by means of the unfavourable affect of hundreds of competing honey bees.

There’s much more in a identical vein and I’ll go back to this subject someday one day.

When and why do honey bees outcompete different species?

Generalists vs experts

Honey bees are generalists. They reside in massive perennial colonies with more than one brood cycles in step with season. Their social behaviour – position specialisation, conversation and many others – manner they may be able to successfully exploit nectar and pollen resources within the setting. Their numbers – possibly 15,000 foragers or extra in step with colony in top season – manner this exploitation unexpectedly results in different bee species being outcompeted.

In the United Kingdom a minimum of, maximum bee species aren’t social. 90% of our ~267 species are solitary. They overwinter as pupae and continuously have only a unmarried spherical of brood rearing in step with season. The presence of hundreds of honey bees competing for a similar forage places them at an important drawback.

That is exacerbated if they’re experts, being dependent upon a restricted vary of flora or bushes for pollen and nectar.

Those variations spotlight the issue in figuring out whether or not the presence of honey bees is unfavourable to different bee species and, by means of extrapolation, to different pollinators that occupy the similar setting.

In some spaces, wealthy in each forage variety and availability, all can coexist with out deleterious pageant. On the other hand, in different places, or at explicit instances of the season, the contest shall be intense and ”it’s a numbers sport” the place the extra a lot of honey bees dominate.

OSR, the June hole and honey retail outlets

Take note additionally that honey bees continuously have nests replete with retail outlets to tide them thru instances of hardship. Solitary bees in most cases don’t.

Oil seed rape (OSR) ...

Oil seed rape (OSR) … virtually completed

Imagine arable farmland with oil seed rape (OSR) fields separated by means of hedgerows. When the OSR is in flower it’s increase time … there’s greater than sufficient for all species that discuss with the OSR. On the other hand, as soon as the OSR is going over forage is specific to what’s to be had – and in vary – alongside the hedgerows and box margins.

Beekeepers name this the June hole … for a solitary bee it may well be terminal.


The position specialisation, waggle dance and forager numbers imply that honey bees have a better efficient foraging vary than virtually all different bees. Beekman & Ratneiks (2000), the usage of waggle dance interpretation demonstrated that honey bees might forage as much as 9 km from the hive. The median foraging distance of bees within the town (of Sheffield) visiting heather moors used to be over 6 km (blue circle within the symbol underneath).

By contrast, many solitary bees forage over a spread of simply 150 – 600 metres (purple; Gathmann & Tscharntke, 2002) or even the colony forming bumble bees (e.g. Bombus terrestris) show off most foraging levels beneath 750 metres (yellow; Osborne et al., 1999).

Relative foraging levels from nest website (N).

It will have to be famous that a number of different research display the foraging vary of honey bees is extra in most cases 2-3 km (the black circle), however this nonetheless some distance exceeds that of solitary bees or even the social bumble bees.

This implies in fact that an apiary can doubtlessly affect forage availability to many nests of bumble bees or foraging solitary bees that have a lot smaller levels.

However honey bees don’t get all of it their very own means. The larger foraging distance implies that they’re doubtlessly uncovered to a much wider vary of agricultural insecticides (Knapp et al., 2023). Scientists who wish to survey pesticide contamination within the setting are higher learning wide-ranging honey bees than solitary species which forage throughout smaller levels.

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Measuring pageant

As beekeepers we now have a duty to each our bees and the surroundings that they inhabit. This contains no longer adversely influencing the surroundings so it’s much less ready to strengthen different bee species.

Or different pollinators that percentage the similar forage crops.

However that is more straightforward mentioned than accomplished because it’s very tough to quantify this ‘antagonistic affect’. This is likely one of the causes that detecting local bees being outcompeted by means of honey bees may also be each time and site dependent as effectively as being inherently tough to measure anyway.

You probably have too many honey bees in an atmosphere they compete with each and every different and hives do much less effectively. Beekeepers might be able to decide this as we’re out and in of our hives on a weekly foundation and will have to have an concept in their productiveness.

On the other hand, your honey bees may well be doing ‘simply tremendous’ while nonetheless decimating the native local bee populations. And, because you’re no longer automatically quantifying the latter, how would you ever know?


I don’t assume we but know the way to appropriately and successfully measure this pageant.

Denmark’s bees

One attention-grabbing means has been utilized by In keeping with Kryger and co-workers in Denmark (Rasmussen et al., 2021) who checked out overlaps in floral sources visited by means of honey bees and local bees. The 292 bee species in Denmark forage on a complete of 410 plant species. Of those, 176 are visited by means of each honey bees and wild bees, so are doable websites of pageant.

Bee-plant interactions in Denmark. Click on symbol for complete main points.

By means of carrying out community research of bee-plant interactions they confirmed that – in Denmark a minimum of – the native community (‘module’) containing honey bees (blue in module B above) had fewer hyperlinks with different modules, implying that pageant used to be most probably relatively restricted. Moreover, seriously endangered local bee species seemed no longer to be in pageant with honey bees.

Reassuring … however most likely handiest related to Denmark and topic to plenty of necessary caveats. Nonetheless, nonetheless a hopeful advice {that a} identical means may well be helpful in different places.

I’d like to peer a identical research being carried out to ecological niches – like that Mediterranean scrubland – the place pageant has been demonstrated.

International Bee Day

Day after today – Would possibly 20th 2023 – is International Bee Day .

As beekeepers we clearly care passionately about our honey bees and the plight of honey bees international. However honey bees are in truth doing somewhat effectively within the general scheme of items. Their numbers are expanding, predominantly thru control by means of beekeepers (a need, a minimum of in maximum temperate areas, because of our previous creation and unfold of Varroa to colonies).

By contrast, we face an ‘insect apocalypse’ with world abundance and variety lowering considerably because of quite a lot of reasons – insecticides, local weather exchange and, indubitably, pageant.

Inhabitants adjustments of 5 insect orders (Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Odonata and Orthoptera)

About 50% of Hymenoptera species (the order to which bees of all kinds belong) are lowering globally.

Subsequently, when ‘celebrating’ International Bee Day – on the other hand you select to – take into consideration the 20,000 different bee species no longer controlled or exploited by means of people, however whose numbers – or even life – are increasingly more threatened, without delay or not directly, by means of our actions.

I’m outdated and cynical … once I see anything else that promotes ‘saving the bees’ which basically or completely comes to honey bees I believe it; a) a cash making rip-off, b) a erroneous try to greenwash (’beewash’) polluting actions, or c) lazy lack of understanding.

Or, unfortunately, now and again all 3 🙁 .

Save the bees … the different bees.


I made the bit up concerning the Bentleys 46 speaker Hello-Fi and unobtainium trim however the efficiency and consequent air pollution figures are authentic … as is the ’racetrack perspective’ quote and oxygen constructed from their dwelling wall, either one of which can be lifted without delay from their site.


Angelella, G.M., McCullough, C.T., and O’Rourke, M.E. (2021) Honey bee hives lower wild bee abundance, species richness, and fruit rely on farms without reference to wildflower strips. Sci Rep 11: 3202

Beekman, M., and Ratnieks, F.L.W. (2000) Lengthy-range foraging by means of the honey-bee, Apis mellifera L. Purposeful Ecology 14: 490–496.

Henry, M., and Rodet, G. (2018) Controlling the affect of the controlled honeybee on wild bees in safe spaces. Sci Rep 8: 9308

Knapp, J.L., Nicholson, C.C., Jonsson, O., Miranda, J.R. de, and Rundlöf, M. (2023) Ecological characteristics engage with panorama context to decide bees’ pesticide chance. Nat Ecol Evol 7: 547–556

Mallinger, R.E., Gaines-Day, H.R., and Gratton, C. (2017) Do controlled bees have side effects on wild bees?: A scientific assessment of the literature. PLOS ONE 12: e0189268

Müller, A., and Kuhlmann, M. (2008) Pollen hosts of western palaearctic bees of the genus Colletes (Hymenoptera: Colletidae): the Asteraceae paradox. Organic Magazine of the Linnean Society 95: 719–733

Phiri, B.J., Fèvre, D., and Hidano, A. (2022) Uptrend in world controlled honey bee colonies and manufacturing in accordance with a six-decade standpoint, 1961–2017. Sci Rep 12: 21298

Orr, M.C., Hughes, A.C., Chesters, D., Pickering, J., Zhu, C.-D., and Ascher, J.S. (2021) International Patterns and Drivers of Bee Distribution. Present Biology 31: 451-458.e4

Rasmussen, C., Dupont, Y.L., Madsen, H.B., Bogusch, P., Goulson, D., Herbertsson, L., et al. (2021) Comparing pageant for forage crops between honey bees and wild bees in Denmark. PLOS ONE 16: e0250056

Schenk, M., Krauss, J., and Holzschuh, A. (2018) Desynchronizations in bee–plant interactions motive critical health losses in solitary bees. Magazine of Animal Ecology 87: 139–149

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