Some Sweet News About Honeybees

With all the recent bad news about the decline of pollinators, including bees, it is encouraging to report a bit of good news. Research at Cornell University's Arnot Forest and surrounding area, including Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve, indicates that wild honey bees may be better able to survive the onslaught of disease and predation affecting those in managed hives. All honey bees are introduced to the United States, but some have established themselves as wild or feral bees.

Tom Seeley, Cornell University's Horace White Professor in Neurobiology and Behavior, has studied wild bees at Arnot Forest since 1978 (see Bees in the Forest, Still in the January, 2003 edition of Bee Culture). He was surprised to see that the bees at Arnot did not suffer the same level of decline that commercial bee keepers experienced.

David Peck's dissertation research has followed up and added to Professor Seeley's 2003 study. He reports that "Work has, indeed, continued on the Arnot Forest bees. The bees are still there, they do have the parasitic Varroa mite, and they seem to have evolved some resistance to the parasite through natural selection." Another factor may be that wild bees, unlike those in commercial hives, change their homes in trees on a more frequent basis making it more difficult for the mites to establish themselves.

Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve, located at 293 Irish Hill Road in Newfield, NY, provides one of the surrounding feeding areas for the Arnot bees. Most of its 130 acres is meadow maintained for habitat for grassland birds like Bobolinks and pollinators like Monarch butterflies and wild bees. Greensprings has a pollinator plan developed with support from the Ithaca office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service New York of the United States Department of Agriculture. Greensprings plans mowing to encourage pollinators and plants native bushes, trees and meadow plants as resources permit. David Peck states, "I hope everyone at Greensprings is proud that your flowers are providing food to some exceedingly interesting honey bees." Professor Seeley has said, "Greensprings is both a cemetery and a nature preserve, for you are maintaining it as 'old field' that is filled with wildflowers which help bees, other pollinators and many insects." Professor Seeley also mentions Greensprings on pages 90 - 92 of his book Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting. 2016. Princeton University Press.

For more information, contact Herb Engman, President, Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve at or 607-342-0442