The arrival of spring is marked by many things but one of the most noticeable is the almost sudden presence of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in our gardens again having been absent during the winter months. They busily work around any flowers that are open and providing pollen and nectar. They are constantly active and going to and fro from their hive where new grubs are waiting to be fed. Unless you are a bee keeper it is so easy to take them for granted and perhaps not give them the consideration they deserve.
Given that there has been quite a lot of talk recently about various species (insects, birds, mammals and plants) that have come to this country and made their home here and are now considered a pest, may be we should give the honey bee a bit more thought? The current thinking is that these invaders are not natural and their progress should be checked; the Ringed-necked Parakeet has been particularly under attack, so too the harlequin ladybird, Japanese knotweed and Indian balsam. Much effort and vast sums are being spent on trying to eradicate rhododendron and work is in hand to reduce the numbers of sika deer.
However, this country's agricultural economy is pretty dependent on the honey bee to carry out the bulk of the pollination of cultivated plants and yet the honey bee is a native of South America but it has adapted well to European climes and prospers here. Well, until recently at least, as a considerable number of hives are being lost as a result of the varroa mite and many more to the use of insecticides in our fields.
It is a tricky debate. Should all invading species be controlled to reduce the impact on our native species? Is it hypocritical to be selective in which ones we accept and which ones we attack? Should we do nothing and let nature take its natural course? We need to remember that many of these invaders were brought here by humans in the first place! It is often a man made problem so is it man's role to do something about it? Yes, difficult ethical and practical questions, just what is the answer?