MicroHabitat cuts ties with urban beekeeping

In the eyes of our society, honeybees often symbolize sustainability, prosperity and environmental protection. While they are important to agriculture, honeybees also destabilize natural ecosystems by competing with native bees, some of which are endangered species. 

The rise of hobby beekeeping has followed strong advocacy campaigns to “save the bees.” But as a species, honeybees are the least in need of saving. The importance placed on them is disproportionate to native bees and pollinators.

“Beekeeping is for people; it’s not a conservation practice,” says Sheila Colla, assistant professor and conservation biologist at York University in Toronto, Canada. “People mistakenly think that keeping honeybees, or helping honeybees, is somehow helping native bees, which are on the verge of extinction.” The introduction of honeybees has reduced the connectivity of pollinator plant networks.

High honey bee colony densities increase competition among native pollinators for forage, further pressuring already declining wildlife species. ​​Indeed, the study conducted by Isabelle Dajoz (1), a researcher in ecology at the University Diderot, reveals the negative effect of too many beehives in the city on biodiversity. A finding that had already been established by researchers from the University of Cambridge in a study published in January 2018 in the journal Science (2). 

One species is particularly responsible because it is ubiquitous: the honeybee (also called “Apis Mellifera”) that represents the best producer of honey. A hive has up to 70,000 members of this species. These bees collect between 80 and 100 kilograms of pollen per year. These bees have erased their other congeners : the wild bees that are much more solitary and limited in their choice of flower varieties.

Urban bee hives, contributing to native bee population declines

The study, carried out over three years in the city of Paris, is alarming. It shows the preponderant place that the domestic bee has taken over the wild bee in the Parisian biodiversity. Domestic bees literally consume all available floral resources, leaving almost nothing for wild bees. In the different floral spaces analyzed, the distribution is as follows: 50% domestic bees against 26% wild bees (the rest being other insect species). The solution? Stop the installation of hives and even remove them. To regain a balance in this ecosystem, there should be less than one hive per square kilometer.

This study is a real breakthrough in the field, as few figures existed until now on the issue. Wild bees are essential, not only to ensure the biodiversity of plants, but also to increase agricultural yields. 

In view of the latest studies published on the negative effect of honeybees on the ecosystems of our cities and for the sake of biodiversity, it’s with a lot of regret that we have decided to cut all our ties with all urban beekeeping partners. 

If you are currently invested into urban beekeeping and would like to learn more about this growing issue, or how to save the endangered species that is the native bee, we can help you!

1) https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aar2269