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Bees are in decline but backyard hives won’t save them

Hiroaki. Home at Ichinokura. Before 1936.

Some experts say the trend of backyard beekeeping could at best do little to save bees, and at worst leave certain species worse off

By Catherine McIntyre
September 23, 2017


Beekeeping is a hot quarter of the urban agriculture trend sweeping the country’s gentrifying neighbourhoods. Compelled by warnings of declining pollinator numbers, city dwellers have been planting bee-friendly gardens, petitioning the government to ban harmful insecticides (specically neonicotinoids, the oft-cited bee nemesis) and—most ambitiously—hosting backyard honey bees.

Just about every urban centre in Canada has at least one Toronto Honeys equivalent: there’s the Halifax Honey Bee Society; the Regina and District Bee Club; and, in Vancouver, Hives for Humanity. One company, Alveoli, has installed and manages hives on more than 600 commercial and residential properties in cities across the country.

The trouble, say some experts, is that the rationale underlying this ?xation may be woefully ill-informed. At best, they say, the trend will do little to save the bees, some of which are indeed at risk; at worst, it could leave certain bee species worse off.

There are over 800 different bee species in Canada, each with sometimes similar, but ultimately unique habitats, needs and threats. As Sheila Colla, a York University ecologist, explains, using one species, the honey bee—and an invasive one, at that—to save a whole taxonomic family is futile and, frankly, bizarre. “We would never do that with other animals,” says Colla, an expert on bees. “It would be like throwing some Asian carp into Lake Ontario to save the fish. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Read the complete article here.