Native Bees on the North Shore
Pollinator Status and Conservation
The dramatic loss of honeybee colonies throughout North America has been widely documented in recent years, with repeated news and media articles bringing to many of us a new awareness of both the scale of the problem, and the importance of the European honeybee to our modern food supply system. The pollination activity of honeybees accounts for approximately 30% or more of all food crop production occurring annually within North America, with an estimated value to our economies of over $14 billion each year. The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) is, by far, the most widely used pollinator in commercial agriculture operations today, servicing most crop production areas of the U.S. and Canada including B.C. and the Fraser Valley. Other commercially used pollinating bees are the orchard/mason bee, the alfalfa leaf-cutter bee, and for greenhouse food production, typical in the Fraser Valley areas, the eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens).
Native bee species are currently estimated to be providing up to 35% of commercial pollination activities in areas where their population levels are not in decline. Pollination activities in non-agricultural, urban and natural areas are almost exclusively performed by the existing native pollinators, with indigenous bees accomplishing between 65% and 70% of all backyard pollination each year.
Unfortunately over the last three decades there has been a sharp, documented decline in many indigenous bee population levels. Certain kinds of native pollinating bees have seen levels of population loss exceeding 90%, with some species now considered to be missing from their traditional foraging and nesting areas. Since the late 1980s at least two species of Pacific northwest native pollinating bees are considered to have become almost extinct or are rapidly approaching population levels so low that the bees’ continued survival in their traditional habitats will not be possible.