Beneficial Pollinator Programs and Banning of Honey Bees on Local Lands

By Mike Thomas
National Director, National Honey Bee Day

There is a slow yet methodical attack on honey bees and those who keep them, hidden in the very words used to garner support for pollinators in this country. And this attack, is from some of the very same environmental groups, entomologists, and agriculture extension personnel, whom beekeepers have fully supported for years.

It involves the use and promotion of “Native Pollinators” by many programs. Master gardening groups, entomologists, and other environmental groups use the term “Native Pollinators”, in promoting, explaining, and fostering support for pollinators other than honey bees. Simply put, they do not use the term “Beneficial Pollinators” which would include honey bees, but use the term “Native Pollinators” to purposely exclude honey bees. Honey bees by many are considered an invasive species.

In a recent article [in the] Door County Daily News the following comment is confirmed “I don’t usually include this in my talks, but many entomologists are deliriously happy about the decline of honey bees. Honey bees are invasive species.” The article is written by Coggin Heeringa, Director, at Crossroads at Big Creek, Wisconsin.

I have had several conversations with Master Gardeners, academia types, and agriculture extension personnel throughout the years on this topic. Many are very careful not to make open comments in regards to honey bees or make controversial comments seen directly as attacking beekeepers. But make no doubt about it, the disdain for “Migratory” beekeepers (seen as a nasty disease spreaders), the position that honey bees are an invasive species, and the uncaring attitude towards beekeepers with no real understanding of their contributions, is, and has always been, right below the surface. And it is about time that beekeepers become very aware of those that carry disdain towards honey bees and beekeepers.

Reality is, in most states, the vast majority of beekeepers are hobbyists. They are gardeners, chicken keepers, and nature loving people. Most could be called environmentalist in their support and positions they keep. In Pennsylvania as example, out of the nearly 3,000 beekeepers, less than 30 are commercial beekeepers. 99% are backyard hobbyists. And many are supportive of environmental centers, gardening groups, and nature programs. Yet others point to the 1% of large scale migratory beekeepers to justify their positions and contempt for all honey bees and beekeepers.

So when a director of an environmental center, such as Coggin Heeringa from Crossroads at Big Creek, repeats denigrating comments by a narrow minded entomologist who relishes in the decline of honey bees, it may be time for beekeepers to educate themselves on this issue. To further repeat these comments in promotion of a program, entitled “Native Pollinators – Look Beyond the Honey Bees” is appalling.

Beekeepers and bee associations need to understand the difference between “Beneficial Pollinator” programs, which include honey bees, and those called “Native Pollinator” programs, which exclude honey bees.

The public needs to keep in mind a few items. Honey bees are vital for food production. Both in large scale farming, and backyard gardening. Pollination needs in the radius of 2-5 miles in all directions of a maintained beehive benefits from honey bees. This includes all fruits, nuts, and seeds for all animals in the local area.

And this idea of labeling honey bees as invasive or non-native, ironically, is by the very group themselves that could be called non-native, unless they are native Indian. Most of your food grown in your garden is non-native to this country. Most of your spices. And 99% of the population, is considered non-native.

So we can only conclude that these narrow minded folks, so willing to overlook the many benefits of honey bees and the sacrifices beekeepers make to maintain hives in todays’ environment, must be doing this for their own ego or pocket.

Beekeepers need to know the difference between programs supporting “Beneficial Pollinators, and those programs focused on “Native Bees”. Beekeepers need to support with their time and dollars, those environmental programs centered on helping the overall environment, including the honey bees.

Beekeepers cannot stand by while having entomologists and environmental centers openly state they are “Deliriously happy” for the decline of honey bees, without taking action. Please do not support any environmental center, gardening program, or business, centered on the denigration of beekeeping and honey bees.

Thank you.