Something that came to light during yesterday’s post about the introduction of alien bees into an environment in Arab states got me to wondering if this is a problem other areas of the world are experiencing. It did not take long to find out it is actually becoming a problem throughout the world.
A study conducted at the Angia Ruskin University by Dr. Olivia Norfolk warns the introduction of these alien bees may not only be harmful to the local bee population (as they are experiencing in the Middle East), but also to some local plant life.
For the study, Dr. Norfolk’s team studied how the bees interacted with the plants in the mountain regions of St. Katherine Protectorate in Egypt. The location was chosen because of the variety of range-restricted endemic plants and the fact local bees there are in jeopardy due to the massive injection of alien honeybees to the area.
The plant life in this area is a major source of income for locals and wanting to maximize the full potential of the area, beekeepers in the area have been importing hives to max out the potential in the area.
The study concluded the new bees were not visiting the range-restricted plants, but rather focused their attention to just over half the plant life available to them. Range-restricted bees then found their resources in this area very limited. Of concern to the scientists was the dependency on the pollinators for the range-restricted plants that were not being visiting by the alien bees.
Something else of interest was the fact that local bees were now cutting back on the visits to the areas where the alien bees had set up shop. They are concerned the native bees will completely stop visiting these sites, something that could hurt the reproduction process.
Dr. Norfolk released the following statement on the matter:
Range-restricted pollinators exhibited high resource overlap with the super-abundant honeybee, which could lead to resource competition. 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.
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.
Any economic benefits associated with honey production must be balanced against the negative impacts to local wildlife, such as the potential extinction of endemic plants species of high conservation concern.
Now the question becomes is the industry growing too quickly and putting not only local bee populations in danger, but also the plants that serve as their pollination source.
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