Are backyard beekeepers actually helping bees? Not necessarily. A growing concern is that keeping honey bees may hurt native wild bees that pollinate our local ecosystems.

This is because popular European honey bees, with their large populations and generalist diets, compete heavily for shared flower resources.

This places further pressure on the thousands of solitary and ground-nesting native bee species already in decline. Surprisingly, beekeeping aimed at “saving the bees” may unintentionally harm them the most.

Growing Concern for Native Bees

While honey bees face threats, an even greater crisis is unfolding among native bee populations. North America is home to over 4,000 wild species like bumble bees, mason bees, leafcutters, and many solitary varieties.

Each is exquisitely adapted to pollinate select plant groups and many are declining due to habitat loss. Without their pollination services, one-third of crops and 90% of wildflowers face reproduction issues.

Yet these small-scale pollinators receive a fraction of research and conservation focus that largely ignores their vital ecological role.

A better understanding of native bee susceptibility is leading to concerns their declining footprint may be further hampered by rising honeybee culture.

The fate of native bees in North America has been a source of growing concern over the past few years.

While honey bees have long received recognition for their importance in pollinating many crops and wildflowers, native bee populations are severely threatened.

There are more than 4,000 species of wild bees across North America, including bumblebees, mason bees, and leafcutters—all of which play an essential role in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems. 

Unfortunately, these small-scale pollinators are being pushed to the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and destruction.

Competition from Honeybee Hives

With colonies comprising tens of thousands of foraging individuals, honey bees tax shared flower resources heavily as non-native generalists.

research shows even small apiaries drastically reduce native bee nesting success by depleting crucial forage. This is particularly damaging following winter starvation or due to lack of replacement queens after mating interruptions.

Ground and stem nesters also face higher risks near hives prone to robbing vulnerable native colonies. While valuing honey bees’ cultural and economic importance, their presence must not diminish crucial wild pollinators our landscapes now depend on for greenery.

Native bee populations are facing an unprecedented and mounting threat from honeybees. As non-native generalists, they rapidly deplete shared flower resources, reducing the possibilities for successful nesting among native bees.

This is especially true in winter and when mating opportunities are disrupted, as these colonies must fend off starvation or find another queen to survive. 

What Homeowners Can Do To Help

Though well-meaning, suburban honeybee keeping is not helping native crisis and raises valid responsibility concerns. Homeowners are better guiding pollinator recovery through habitat adjustments.

Planting bee pastures of diverse native flowers provides sustenance across seasons while reducing reliance on shared public spaces.

Nest sites emulate natural settings bees evolved with for shelter. Relocating hives farther afield or growing supplemental forage allows natives and farms to coexist with hobbyist beekeeping.

These modest steps harbor native pollinator resurgence with marginal sacrifice to other interests.

As bee populations continue to decline, it is essential for homeowners to take meaningful action in order to help support pollinator recovery. Thankfully, there are simple steps that homeowners can take to make a positive impact without compromising the safety of their community. 

One of the most effective options is planting diverse native flowers in pastures or other suitable areas.

By creating an abundant and varied supply of nourishment, homeowners can provide pollinators with sustenance across multiple seasons.

Additionally, this reduces reliance on public greenspaces, allowing them to flourish without disruption from hobbyist beekeeping. 

Another way of providing for native species is to create nest sites that imitate natural settings such as hollowed logs, upturned flower pots, and rock piles.

Sustainable Beekeeping Practices

Responsible beekeepers can support both honey bees and native species by practicing sustainability.

Planting peripheral forage away from natural areas addresses competition concerns. Monitoring hives teaches whether activities stress neighbors.

Education programs help the growing population understand coexistence, like spacing hives and ensuring water access.

Beekeepers also champion conservation by advising land managers. With open communication and small adjustments, multiple pollinator interests can cooperate for shared green spaces.

Supporting Solitary Bee Species

While honey bees form huge social collectives, the majority of North American native bees are solitary, living and nesting alone.

These include ground-nesting types laying eggs in burrows alongside larval food provisions. Providing unmowed areas mimic their natural grassland habitat.

Stem-nesting bees lay eggs in plant hollows – suppliers satisfy them by installing bundles of trimmed plant stems.

For cavity nesters like mason bees, “bee condos” of drilled wooden blocks or paper tubes offering nest shelters boost dwindling populations. Each simple step exponentially grows solitary native numbers.

Solitary bees are often overlooked, yet they play a vital role in our ecosystem. These native species are crucial to the pollination of many fruits and vegetables and have been linked to increased crop yields.

Unfortunately, their numbers are declining due to habitat loss, so it is essential that we take action to protect them. 

One way we can support solitary bee species is by providing unmowed areas that resemble their grassland habitat.

This will give ground-nesting bees places to lay their eggs and provide food sources for their larvae. For stem-nesting bees, bundles of trimmed plant stems can be installed around the perimeter of gardens or farms. Finally, cavity nesters like mason bees will benefit from so-called “bee condos” – wooden blocks with drilled holes or paper tubes that serve as nest shelters. 

Why Native Bees Matter Most

While honey bees pollinate lucrative crops, native bees underpin biodiversity. Co-evolved with native flora, each local wild species acts as a specialist pollinator for indigenous plant groups facing extinction without this dependency.

This enhances ecological stability and food security and makes landscapes more resistant to environmental changes.

Native bees’ cultural value also inspires connection to place. Prioritizing these indispensable pollinators ensures a livable planet for future generations focused on harmony with nature instead of human needs alone. Small native-friendly actions have an outsized impact.


While honey bees fill roles, native species must be prioritized as most essential pollinators. Minor changes to support native bees through habitat and resources can help balance networks under pressure.

By coexisting sensitively and embracing sustainable practices, backyard beekeepers, land managers, and communities together hold the power to nurture diverse communities where both honey bees and thousands of solitary native pollinators prosper alongside each other. Prioritizing overlooked native pollinator conservation offers true impact.