Impact of Honey Bees on other wild pollinators - particularly bees

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Ben hargreaves
Last seen: 4 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 07/05/2014 - 15:57
Impact of Honey Bees on other wild pollinators - particularly bees

I work on a Plan Bee project for Lancashire Wildlife Trust and have been asked by a local group if placing up to twenty bee hives on a Nature Reserve (that includes small areas of semi natural and created, fairly species rich grassland) will have a detrimental effect on other pollinators.

The location is Chorley, in central Lancashire.

I've wondered about this myself on a number of occasions though have not been able to unearth any scientific study or even anecdotal reports.

I guess the first instance would be to avoid hives in areas known to have rare / declining species of aculeates, though this is fairly lowland Lancashire and there are no rare bees recorded - there are very few uncommon - rare bees in Lancs at all other than Bombus monticola, Colletes cunicularius and Osmia parietina - ​and none of these are recorded even near to here.

Any studies / reports / personal observations relating to Bumblebees and any other pollinators would be much appreciated.

This is particularly timely with the National Pollinator Strategy from England punted - I expect to be grilled on this quite a bit in future.

Cheers in advance,

Ben Hargreaves,

Nigel Jones
Last seen: 5 days 12 hours ago
Joined: 11/11/2011 - 20:07
Apply a cautionary approach

I don't know of any scientific studies, but twenty hives sounds like a lot in small areas of grassland. The honeybees will of course forage at numerous sources, not just those in the grassland nature reserve, but my gut feeling is that they should be cautious about introducing a large number of hives into a potentially sensitive area.

Your question is really quite salient. I imagine the impacts of Apis mellifera on other pollinators would be difficult to measure, but someone may have tried and hopefully others can provide better informed comment than mine.

Stuart Roberts
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 15/12/2011 - 12:19
Impact of Honey Bees

There are a few studies from elsewhere in the world but none in UK as far as I know. I would contact Natural England and see what advice they give and follow that. As far as I am aware, they are not keen on managed honeybees on NNR's (at least that was so in Dorset) but this may not be their courrent advice


Stuart Roberts

Chairman, BWARS

Last seen: 2 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: 03/04/2013 - 21:34
not many studies but some

I too would love more feedback on this issue.

My feeling is like others precautionary principle should be followed.

There is some evidence out there honeybees do compete see

Goulson, D., & Sparrow, K. R. (2009). Evidence for competition between honeybees and bumblebees; effects on bumblebee worker size. Journal of Insect Conservation, 13(2), 177-181.

there is also research which suggests various diseases from commercial bees can be spread to bumblebees.

Fürst M. A., McMahon, D. P., Osborne, J. L., Paxton, R. J. & Brown, M. J. F. (2014) Disease associations between honeybees and bumblebees as a threat to wild pollinators. Nature 506:364–366 (20 February 2014) doi:10.1038/nature12977

This i feel does need more research ive been asked by two site managers myself, but what do you say how many hives is bad ? what wild bees are they most likely to effect does anyone know?

Ben hargreaves
Last seen: 4 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 07/05/2014 - 15:57
Impacts of honey bees on wild pollinators

Many thanks to all who have replied - I will see what N.E. suggest locally / regionally.

Hives with what - to a non beekeeper - seemed particularly aggressive bees (Aggressive to the point that the suited and booted beekeepers ran off, arms flailing) are stationed at one of the Lancs WT Reserves (Mere Sands Wood) and there was a notable absence of any mining bees on what appeared to be a very suitable, large sand bank some distance away this year.
Conversely a large hive was erected at an isolated LWT grassland site (Freeman's Pasture) and in the same year Dyer's Greenweed produced quantities of seed not seen for ten years, though both instances stand for nothing at the moment.


alanders (not verified)
I work at a Nature Preserve

I work at a Nature Preserve in Florida and I have the same question. I contacted the Entomology Department at University of Florida and they have said that they have not studied this in our state. I have found research, however, from California that reported lower reproductive rates in native bees once European honey bees were introduced-- but because the research was not conducted in Florida, my supervisor does not see it as necessarily relevant to our situation. Good luck and thanks for the post. It is good to know that others are being conscientious about these kinds of issues, too.

Louise in North...
Last seen: 4 years 1 month ago
Joined: 29/12/2011 - 13:45
Impact of honeybees on wild pollinators

This is my personal experience.  In North Yorks Moors I studdied Andrena tarsata at one site over 2 summers;

Year 1 had about 15 hives present; suitable patches of tormentil within a few hundred yards of hives had no observed A. tarsata (or other wild species).  Patches about half a mile away had many species incl. A. tarsata, plus a few honeybees.


Year 2, no hives; all patches in this small area foraged by A. tarsata.


This is only one patch, one species and I only visited occasionally, but it does suggest high levels of competition from honebees to wild species to me.  It seems pointless planting all these lovely wildflower meadows to encourage wild species, and then sticking hives close to it. 

Ben hargreaves
Last seen: 4 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 07/05/2014 - 15:57
Impacts of honey bees on wild pollinators

Thanks Louise,
I'm not surprised to hear of your experience - I suspect similar negative effects at an LWT Reserve.

The area in Chorley is quite lowland and of patchy habitat quality though there is an area within the borough - approx 5 miles away for the crow - at the start of the West Pennine Moors with Andrena tarsata and Bombus monticola, it would be awful if any hives went up here as these two sps have only just been recorded here (last year for A.t, last few for B.m). On the plus side the area is proposed as an extended S.S.S.I. which should give more protection.

I think part of the problem is the widespread assumption amongst the public and more than a few apiarists (also more than a few ecologists) that honeybees are unequivocally a good thing for "wildlife" - as apose to treating them like any other farmed animal.

Do you / have you had Nomada roberjeotiana at your site?

Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: 14/11/2013 - 14:16
Hi Ben,Without a shadow of

Hi Ben,

Without a shadow of a doubt putting 20 hives on a nature reserve will have a seriously detrimental effect on other pollinators.

There is a wealth of scientific literature out there showing how everything from disease transmission, competition and stress increase dramatically in native pollinators (rare or not) when in proximity to apiaries.

I suggest you start by reading the following on the effects of competition.
D. Thomson. 2004. Competitive interactions between the invasive European honey bee and native bumble bee
D. Goulson. 2009 Evidence for competition between honeybees and bumblebees; effects on bumblebee worker size

and this on the risk of disease transmission to native pollinators
E. Genersch. 2005. Detection of deformed wing virus, a honey bee viral pathogen, in bumble bees with wing deformities

To be honest I think the idea of placing 20 hives on any nature reserve deserves a grilling. 20 hives in peak season would mean an additional 1.2 million foraging insects within a 5 mile radius (the maximum foraging distance of honeybees). This would have the same effect as releasing 2000 sheep into a wildflower meadow, complete saturation and destruction for anything else.

Ben hargreaves
Last seen: 4 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 07/05/2014 - 15:57
Impacts of honey bees on wild pollinators

Thanks for your reply,
I have read the first two articles but not the second - many thanks for those links.

I've just replied to Louise from the North York Moors and had very similar thoughts to yours on the bee - grazing animal comparison. It is not as if there is any proposed habitat creation or management allied to the proposal, just a let's plonk these hives here in't it brilliant for the wildlife vibe.

I advised the local nats group involved (its not actually in my project area) that the beekeepers would need to carry out an extended phase 1 survey of the local areas / wildlife sites including mapping to determine forage ha's and capacity, it may be a twig in the wheel.

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