New study looks at impact of honey bees in Calgary
With beekeeping becoming more of a buzz around Calgary, a new study underway at the University of Calgary is looking at the impacts honey bees are having on bees native to the city.
In Bowness alone there are 17 people keeping bees in their backyard, said Ron Miksha, a beekeeper taking part in the study along with Dr. Lawrence Harder from the University of Calgary.
“That may be reaching a capacity, that they’re taking so much of the nectar and pollen from the plants that the native bees don’t have anything left over for them," he said.
Harder and Miksha began the study last month, looking at whether native bees are having to compete for the same resources as honey bees, which are not native to Alberta.
Honey bees originate in Europe and were introduced in the province about a century ago.
Urban beekeeping has grown quickly within Calgary.
“About 100 colonies of bees 10 years ago to well over 1,200 or 1,300 today, just inside the city of Calgary,” said Miksha.
The study enlisted two summer students and dozens of residents to participate in the Citizens Science project.
Each resident has allowed the group to install leafcutter bee and bumblebee houses.
Kyra McRitchie, one of the summer students working on the study, is focused on the reproduction of leafcutter bees in the city.
“If we’re seeing less (reproduction), so less eggs at the end of the year with the leafcutters, that probably means that there is some competition,” she said.
“If there are not enough resources for the leafcutters themselves then they won’t reproduce.”
Collette Shellian is also working on the project.
The University of Calgary student will focus on the types of flowers that provide pollen and nectar.
She will determine whether there is a shortage of sources for bees.
“We’re actually using aerial images, so satellite photos, and from that we’re determining the overall green space,” said Shellian.
Miksha says he’s not against honey bees as he has his own honey bee hives in his back yard. His aim is to find out if kept bees and wild bees can survive together.
The study will last through the end of August then data will be correlated. Miksha says it could be a further couple of months before preliminary results are known.