Protecting growing population of honeybees may threaten vulnerable, more critical wild bees

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The honeybee, a single managed species, often occupies the headlines and most of the campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of bee conservation. However, there are more than 20,000 wild bee species globally (Yes, double that of bird species!), and honeybees may just be the wrong species to protect. It is true that without a doubt the loss of many honeybee colonies due to illness or pesticide exposure is an important issue, but it is also true that the number of honeybee colonies is increasing worldwide due to different socio-economic drivers. And these artificially high densities of honeybees might not only fail to contribute to the conservation of the vast majority of bee species, but could also prove detrimental for many of them.

Our findings show indirect evidence that the spillover of honeybees from orange groves to woodland fragments after orange blooming is affecting wild bee species, adding to the plethora of threats faced by this taxonomic group such as climate change, habitat loss or pesticide (ab)use. We found all the symptoms of an increased competition between honeybees and wild bee species, with wild bees using a narrower array of floral resources and a distinct one, avoiding plants preferred by honeybees when they were present in large numbers.

[Read the full study]

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