Most of my New Years’ days have passed without resolutions. This year, I resolved, would be different. Along with the typical (exercise more and eat less), the necessary (write more), the obvious (finish that grad degree), the impossible (learn Hungarian), and the vital (be a better person), I have a smattering of resolutions related to my main avocation.
I aspire, after 50 years among the bees, that I will be a better beekeeper. That is, a beekeeper who is more aware of the environment that honey bees occupy. It took me a long time to realize that there are more kinds of bees than just bumble bees and honey bees. There are at least 20,000 species, many as different as cats and dogs. Bees are suffering from climate change, urbanization, landscape fragmentation, chemicals, exotic pests and diseases. Unique, irreplaceable bee species are becoming extinct at an accelerating rate.
My work at the University of Calgary involves research on possible detrimental effects that keeping urban honey bees may have on native bees. There are almost certainly some ill-effects. Are they subtle or are they extreme? Can they be mitigated? Will beekeepers – with their advocacy of greenspace and elimination of chemicals – be allies of native bees, or will the honey bees they keep ultimately destroy our indigenous bees?
My 2021 goal, fortified by related resolutions, is to more clearly understand the interactions of honey bees and native bees, weigh their impact, determine some recommendations and relay the information without exaggeration or bias. I hope I succeed.