Long Live Local Bees! Research Shows Imported Bees Are Less Likely to Thrive

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New research from Denmark’s Aarhus University finds that bees with a local history are more productive than imported pollinators. The researchers also found that local bee colonies are less likely to be negatively affected by mites, infections or problems with the queen bee.

The findings suggest that local bees are better adapted to their surroundings. This may seem like no big surprise, however, the practice of importing bees for pollination and honey production is common and widespread. Colony Collapse Disorder has also led countries like the U.S. to import bees from other countries. Yet according to the researchers, there has been little study of how imported bees adapt to new surroundings until now.

The researchers studied 621 colonies of honey bees spread across 11 European counties. At each location, they compared one local genetic strain of bees with two foreign strains. The findings have been published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, a publication of the International Bee Research Association.

In light of the global decline in bee populations, better understanding these key pollinators takes on greater urgency. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bee pollination contributes over $15 billion of increased crop value each year.

“Our results indicate that the way forward is to strengthen the breeding programs with local honey bees instead of imported queens,” said Aarhus University senior scientist Per Kryger in a statement. “That would help maintain the bee population's natural diversity. It would also contribute to preventing the collapse of bee colonies, optimize sustainable productivity, and make it possible to maintain continual adaptation to environmental changes.”