Tag Archives: wild bees

Too many honey bees (in town)?

Synopsis : Honey bees compete with native bees. How many hives are too many, resulting in damage to native bee populations? Probably fewer than you think.


Several years ago I visited Montréal to speak at an international symposium. It was a big conference with a very busy programme but I still managed to sneak away and see the city. We had a week or so of stunning Indian summer weather so I walked almost everywhere; along the banks of the St Lawrence and Prairies Rivers, through the Botanic Gardens and the Mount Royal 1 Park.

Montréal Olympic stadium from the Botanic Gardens

If you’ve not been I can recommend it.

However, I didn’t see a single honey bee.

I wasn’t specifically looking for honey bees, but beekeepers tend to notice these things.

In retrospect that wasn’t too surprising. At that time there were just a couple of hundred hives within the city, which covers an area of 430 km2 .

I did see monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in the gardens, stocking up on nectar before starting their migration back to Central Mexico.

Monarch butterfly, Montréal Botanic Gardens

This was early October. Had there been lots of honey bees in Montréal I’d have expected to see them on the same asters, competing for the nectar with the butterflies, piling in the stores before the coming winter.

And competition isn’t always a good thing.

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