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Should We BEE Concerned with Honey Bees?

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

We talked about native bees of North America in a past blog post. What about Honey Bees? They’re [Western and European Honey Bees] like the other bees- they don’t look like they would hurt anyone! Or…anybug in this case. Honey bees are actually an invasive species, termed the “White Man's Fly” by the Native Americans.

Before they were introduced to the New World, a.k.a. the U.S., the native bee and insect populations like the bumblebee pollinated the crops. And when the honey bees were brought over by colonists from Eurasia, that spruced up some unwanted competition between the bees. In a study to measure the effects of competition between the native and non-native bees conducted by Diane Thomson, they found that honey bees do competitively suppress SOME native bees AND “...the potential for cascading effects on native plant communities…” (Thomson, 2004) That means that native plant species are also at risk because of the honey bees, but that is to be expected of invasive species. The competition exerted by the honey bees also have a stronger effect when they are near other native bee species, especially with beekeeping.

Image by Michael Strobel from Pixabay

Along with invasive mites, pesticide, and climate change, the limited habitats and food sources force all these bee species to compete with each other for the same resources, and usually the honey bees come on top. Peter Soroye, a researcher from the University of Ottawa states, “Where temperatures are getting more extreme, bees tend to be disappearing more often…Unlike honeybees in North America, which have been brought over from Europe and kept in these colonies, bumblebees are native and evolved with these plants. So when it comes to these natural landscapes, bumblebees are pretty irreplaceable.” In short, when our native plants go, so will our native bees.

Image by Dieter_G from Pixabay

So we’re back at the question, should we be concerned with honey bees [in the U.S.]? Yes! But at the same time, maybe we shouldn’t overly badger the honey bee. In the stores, you will most likely find honey readily available, and to obtain this much honey requires the work of many honey bees and of course, the beekeeper(s). If we somehow magically removed all the honey bees in the U.S., great! Our native bees may or may not be brought back up to speed! But that would then mean people who work with honey bees will lose their job- and in all reality, anything work or life that deals with the environment, animals, plants, etc., will face backlash. It’s almost like the reintroduction of the Gray Wolves in Yellowstone National Park. There’s going to be people who are for it, and those who are against it.

Image by Schwoaze from Pixabay

Additionally, both native and non-native bees can face something called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD refers to a strange phenomenon where the majority of the hive or colony goes missing. With no worker bees returning to care for the queen and the hive, the hive collapses. Native bees are not the only ones having their populations dwindling down.

There are days where I’m on the fence on this issue. At first, I thought if honey bees were completely removed from the U.S., then our native bee species will thrive. But with climate change, there’s no telling if the bees, or for many animal and plant species included, will jump back into production as before. If we have the worst case scenario, native bees continue to gradually fall, some species going extinct- who else is going to effectively pollinate our crops? Sure wasps, flies, hummingbirds, and butterflies all can pollinate, but they may not be as effective as bees.

It may not be much, but planting more native plants to suffice for all bee species could help along the way. So, what is your take on honey bees?

What you should have learned:

  • Honey bees are an invasive species from Eurasia introduced to the U.S.

  • Honey bees can negatively impact the native bee and plant populations through competition

  • There are occupations that need the honey bees

  • All bees are at risk because of disease/mites, pesticide, and climate change


Thomson, Diane. “Competitive Interactions between the Invasive European Honey Bee and Native Bumble Bees.” Ecology, vol. 85, no. 2, Ecological Society of America, 2004, pp. 458–70,

BERENBAUM, MAY R. “Bees in Crisis: Colony Collapse, Honey Laundering, and Other Problems Bee-Setting American Apiculture.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 158, no. 3, [American Philosophical Society, American Philosophical Association], 2014, pp. 229–47,

Charleboix, Donald. “Honey Bees Are Not Native to America.” Pahrump Honey Company, Storefront & WooCommerce, 30 Apr. 2018,

Mooney, Chris. “Bumblebees Are Dying across North America and Europe as the Climate Warms, Scientists Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Feb. 2020,

Burlew, Rusty. “Why so Many Dead Bumble Bees?” Honey Bee Suite, 16 Oct. 2016,

Erickson, Emily. “WHY BEES ARE DYING.” Planet Bee Foundation,

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