Bees For Sale?
Updated: 1st March 2021
Note.....if you are a beekeeper wanting the page for honey bees click here. If not, read on...
Not long ago, whilst we would see honey bees for sale
to beekeepers, species that were only seen in the wild previously (bumble bees and solitary bees) were not offered. Purchasing honey bees in
order to establish a new colony in a bee hive is of course very common practice.
However, it is now possible to purchase bees that previously
reproduced only in the wild environment. In other words, they are now
being bred commercially by humans for pollination. This is a relatively
Why Are We Now Seeing 'Wild' Bees For Sale?
The fact is that many solitary bees
(such as Orchard Mason Bees) and bumble bees are excellent pollinators.
company called Koppert began rearing bumble bees for sale and
commercial pollination in the 1980s, after it became recognised that
bumble bees were, through their ability to buzz pollinate, the most
efficient pollinators of tomatoes.
More and more research is being conducted into pollination by other solitary species too, such as mason bees and leafcutters.
According to the US Agricultural
Research Service, 1 alfalfa leafcutter bee can do the job of 20
honey bees. You can read more about that on my page about leafcutter bees. Further information is also available on my pages about bee pollination.
It seems, however, that increasingly, and with the troubles experienced
by honey bees through Colony Collapse Disorder and so on, the rearing of
bumble bees and solitary bees for sale and commercial use is increasing.
As farmers and governments become increasingly concerned about relying so heavily on one species of bee (i.e. the honey bee) for crop pollination, more efforts are being made to 'manage' and commercially produce other species.
Is It A Good Thing To See Bumble Bees And Solitary Bees For Sale?
You might think that I would be pleased about this development. Actually I feel uneasy about it, for the following reasons:
- I suggest that rearing other bees as a back-up for providing a
pollination service, is really a sticking plaster approach to solving a
problem in the environment.
I believe we should first ask ourselves
what these man-made problems are, then address them honestly and
responsibly, and in a way that is sustainable and healthier for the
environment as a whole. If we look after the environment and work with
nature rather than against her, then pollinators
should be able to flourish, and continue pollinating our crops and
- Insufficient controls have resulted in the
shipping around of commercially reared bumble bees in the USA, with knock on effects for other species.
Apparently, some suppliers of bumble bees for pollination, aim to get
around potential problems by rearing ‘native bees’ overseas, then shipping them
back to their country of origin. This scenario is happening in the UK, and unfortunately, research has revealed there is a risk they could spread diseases to wild bees.
- I do wonder whether it would suit the agrichemicals industry, if solitary and bumble bees are used in
crop pollination instead of honey bees.
Solitary bees and
bumble bees, have shorter life cycles than honey bee colonies (in other
words, they are expected not to live for as long as honey bees).
the honey bee pollination service which may be hired, presumably, the
solitary and bumble bees can be purchased and replaced yearly. Who then, will be alerted to the effects of pesticides?
Honey bee colonies, by
contrast, are meant to survive beyond a mere pollination season. Without beekeepers to raise the alarm, (as they have in the UK, USA, Germany and
France, for example), I do wonder if the pesticide companies can get off
too lightly. Honey bees also produce honeycomb and pollen -
products which can be analysed and monitored for toxins.
It's very important to realise that, for a whole host of reasons, honey bees are the 'canary in the mine' more than any other insect, and as such, they are a vital indicator of the health of our planet. Read more about why honey bees matter. They are of course, also enchanting species in their own right.
- I really do not like the way humans have a habit of
disregarding the lives of small creatures as unimportant and
dispensable, rather than address the problems in the environment created by humans.
It is not that I am against the
very notion that wild bees should pollinate our food crops. My point
is, that if conditions in the environment are good, wild bees and other
insects will do this freely in any case.
We will not solve environmental problems unless
we actually address the causes of them!
so you see, although I can understand the rationale of breeding bees
for sale to pollinate our crops, I also wonder whether they help to
delay the crucial action we need to take to address our problems, under
the guise that all is well, we can get by, just through breeding a few
extra bees. I think this is incredibly naive, and a very shoddy way to
treat our environment.