Invasive Species are Good Ask the Bees

HONEY!!! We killed the invasive BEES

Wrong BEES DEAR.

Let’s skip the birds for now….

The bees are dying, but which species and how many?

The Facts

Many things change over time and sometimes it is for the better at least in the case of invasive species. For example, “The yellow star thistle, an invasive weed that is reviled throughout the state of California, has become an important resource for many native butterflies in California’s Central Valley. The yellow star thistle provides these foothill butterflies with a source of nectar that is widely available and easily accessible” (Wolfe,2015). I am no biologist or an ecologist but I am an environmental scientist and my background is on hydrology. Invasive species actually benefit the environment sometimes, in fact many species of honey bees we see today were in fact invasive. “There actually were no honey bees in America before European settlers brought hives from Europe says the (Bee Basics)”. The native pollinators (non honey bees) were pollinating the country far before the arrival of the honeybee but once they started forming hives in hollow trees they played a big role in pollination. The downside of this was that although they are amazing pollinators they don’t know how to pollinate many native plants nearly as good as the native pollinators. Native bees do not only pollinate 80% of the flowering plants we see but also pollinate around 75% of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that grow in the country.

A little History

Bees that descend from wasps their more carnivorous, dangerous, and non useful counterparts. Even today some bee species appear very similar to wasps from being hairless and similar to female wasps, only female bees have stingers. There are 4,000 species of native bees in the united states. This being said when people say that the bees are dying is it really as extreme of a decline that many people want to make it seem? I would argue no because there was in fact a bigger decline around the 1970’s which was way more intense than the one we are seeing now. A little over 10 years ago Dave Hackenberg discovered that bees were disappearing. Not dying, just disappearing. Instead of finding piles of dead bees he found that many of the hives were just empty with no current vacancy like what some people called a “bee rapture”.

The Rapture

The bee rapture is also known as the Colony Collapse Disorder which most people don’t really understand because of bad media and wanting to give a more intense emotional appeal towards the dying bees subject. It’s not that the bees are dying they are just leaving their hives with the queen and a small group because of the invasion of mites and parasites that make their current hive uninhabitable and losing a colony and production amount as seen in the chart above. The more importance of this is the fact about the bees that are leaving and possibly dying are our native bees not the honeybee. “It may seem strange, but honey bees may be contributing to the extinction of some native bees. Honey bees can out-compete many native bees and extract vast amounts of pollen and nectar from every habitat in which they live (Bee Basics)”. This being said honey bees are invasive but they also help with our ecosystem and nature activists will not go around killing bees off because they aren’t native. This is what a biologist would call survival of the fittest and honeybees are winning by a landslide.

The Misconception

It is often taken that invasive species are bad for the environment but when it comes to the the case of the bees they are the best invasive species that anyone could ever ask for, the honey bee pollinating more than 80% of plant species and 70 out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition. “ Bees are the current canaries in the mine (Afasinger, thinklikeabee).” I tried to not speak about the birds but this amazing example comes from when back in the mining days miners used canaries as their signal to know when air was still breathable or not. Same goes for the bees, if they die we better figure something out and to get out of that hole — and quick. Although unlikely that bees will go anywhere anytime soon it’s still the truth that once bees are gone we are about 4 years behind. It’s true Einstein said so.

Wild Bees need Help

There are thousands of different kinds of native bees that hatch and become pollinators for humanity. These are the bees the bees that we need to be worried about. The ones that aren’t noticed because they are solitary, stingless and nest in the ground unlike the bees we are always shown. 50% of the midwestern bees declined over 100 years, 4 of our bumble bee species declined 96% in the past 20, and 3 native bee species are already believes to have gone extinct. The visual below describes where surveyors believed would have the highest probability of loss in a species (map shade). The yellow represents the amount of species actually collected in the monitored area. This alone shows that there is a big decline in certain areas of our native pollinators and this is an issue. Wild native bees are used to natural environments and with pesticides being used it can be hard for them to thrive compared to the better adapting honeybees. Honey bees react to changes better and we can’t keep using commercial honey bees as the measure of what is toxic; while honey bees certainly have bad years, they have a whole crew of beekeepers and researchers providing support to them. But native bees are on their own; they fly solo.

( A (B. occidentalis) taken by D. Ditchburn, B (B. bifarius) by L. Solter, C (B. vosnesenskii) by M. Layne, D (B. pensylvanicus) by T. Wilson, E (B. bimaculatus) by J. Whitfield, F (B. impatiens) by J. Lucier, G (B. affinis) by J. James-Heinz, and H (B. terricola) by J. Whitfield.)

What can we do?

We humans could be seen as an invasive species, if you look at the technical definition of an invasive species it comes back as: “an organism (plant, animal, fungus, or bacterium) that is not native and has negative effects on our economy, our environment, or our health”(Dictionary.com) With this, we should seriously consider the effects of anything we introduce (including ourselves) that is not native to an area. Although we can include ourselves in this category of invasive species. Maybe even the possible reason to their decline due to pesticide use there are ways we can fix the issue as the superior beings. Planting a pollinator garden is one way to keep give the bees a source of pollination. The pollinator garden consists of planting local species of plants, fruits, and vegetables local to your geological area, and using safe and natural land practices. Avoid pesticides and choose non chemical products for your pest problem. Plant native plants from the region you live in and give the bees nesting habitats so that they can live in a safe environment without the fear of CCD.

References

Burkle, Laura A., et al. “Plant-Pollinator Interactions over 120 Years.”Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 29 Mar. 2013, science.sciencemag.org/content/339/6127/1611.

Williams, Janice. “Honeybee Populations Are on the Incline.” Newsweek, 3 Aug. 2017, www.newsweek.com/bees-population-colony-endangered-species-645694.

Keim, Brandon. “Sometimes Invasive Species Are Good.” Wired, Conde Nast, 3 June 2017, www.wired.com/2011/02/good-invasives/.

afasinger, /. “Are Honeybees an Invasive Species?” Thinklikeabee, 26 May 2015, thinklikeabee.org/2015/05/23/are-honeybees-an-invasive-species/.

Moisset,Beatriz., et al. “Bee Basics.”A USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership Publication, https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5306468.pdf