Feral honey bee nest (upside down I think).I imagine that many people think of Honey Bees as wild creatures, but Apis mellifera, or Hive Bees, as some scientists and apiarists prefer to call them, are a domestic animal, having been farmed and breed by man to provide honey for centuries. They are also used by commercial orchards as pollinators, but since many wild insects perform this task effectively, Honey Bees real economic importance is as honey producers.
Here in central France there are many apiarists and groups of Honey Bees inevitably go feral from time to time. It is quite common to see Honey Bees congregating around hollow trees or delapidated chimneys. They've escaped the management of the apiarist and are living in the wild. If you have them nesting somewhere problematic, contact a local apiarist and he or she will most likely be very happy to come and return them to the fold. Luckily feral Honey Bees don't cause the sorts of environmental problems that feral cats or goats do.
A Honey Bee, working over a thistle yesterday.In Europe and America there is great concern over largescale Honey Bee deaths in the past few years. Apiarists are worried that their livelihoods are seriously threatened and the press are only too happy to sensationalise. Einstein's supposed quote about us only having 4 years if the bees go is regularly trotted out.
The reality seems to be that, globally, Honey Bee numbers are increasing, mainly thanks to the Chinese taking up industrial scale honey production. Only 6% of food crops require the input of Honey Bees to provide a pollination service. Cereal crops, for instance, are wind pollinated. The latest research shows that the causes of Sudden Colony Collapse Disorder are a combination of a hive already infected with both Nosema (a fungus) and iridovirus, triggered by some additional adverse weather stress.
Our real worry should be the thousands of wild bee, fly and moth species which perform the bulk of insect pollination and which appear to be genuinely suffering major declines in numbers worldwide. Neither should we forget the welfare of domestic bees, when apiarists are not always given helpful advice or support