Human Behavior Needs to Change to Save the Honey Bees

Human Behavior Needs to Change to Save the Honey Bees

Human Behavior Needs to Change to Save the Honey Bees

“In the search for answers to the complex health problems and colony losses experienced by honey bees in recent years, it may be time for professionals and hobbyists in the beekeeping industry to look in the mirror” (Entomological Society of America, 2017).

In a journal article published in the April 2017 edition in the Entomological Society of America’s Journal of Economic Entomology, Robert Owen asserts that humans are to blame for pathogens being spread and infecting the European honey bee. The European honey bee species (Apis mellifera) is the bee species that is responsible for honey production and pollination throughout the world. According to Owen, most of the problems with honey bees are a result of human behavior.

Owen’s essay in the Journal of Economic Entomology outlines factors that he believes are the reasons why humans are affecting honey bees in a negative way:

  • Most hobbyist beekeepers lack the skills and knowledge to manage and inspect their colonies for disease.
  • The international trade of honey bee products and honey bees has allowed the varroa destructor, tracheal mite, fungal disease, and Small Hive Beetle to spread.
  • The large-scale transportation of honey bees for commercial pollination increases the risk of pathogens to be spread between honey bee colonies.
  • The careless application of pest management has led to the overuse of antibiotics and pesticides. This, in turn, has increased the resistance among honey bee parasists, such as the Varroa destructor and the American Foul Brood bacterium.

Owen also give some suggestions that will help change human behavior:

  • Commercial and hobbyist beekeepers need to adhere better to pest management practices.
  • Increase the education for beekeepers in pathogen management.
  • Stronger networks of support for hobbyists by beekeepers and researchers, as well as government agencies.
  • Tighter regulations of both migratory beekeeping practices and the global transportation of honey bees.

In summary, Owen asserts, “The problems facing honeybees today are complex and will not be easy to mitigate…. The role of inappropriate human action in the spread of pathogens and the resulting high numbers of colony losses needs to be brought into the fore of management and policy decisions if we are to reduce colony losses to acceptable levels” (Entomological Society of America, 2017).


Entomological Society of America. (2017, April 6). To save honey bees, human behavior must change: Poor management practices have enabled spread of bee pathogens, bee researcher argues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2017 from


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