Shiny pollen-covered bee on white button flower
Explore Nov 5, 2011 #109
The largest ecological impact of European colonization may have been wreaked by a small, seemingly benign domestic animal: the European honeybee.
“In early 1622, a ship arrived in Jamestown… loaded with exotic entities for the colonists to experiment with: grapevine cuttings, silkworm eggs, and beehives. Most bees pollinate only a few species; they tend to be fussy about where they live. European honeybees, promiscuous beasts, reside almost anywhere and pollinate almost anything in sight. Quickly, they swarmed from their hives and set up shop through the Americas.
The English imported the bees for honey, not to pollinate crops—pollination wasn’t’ widely understood until the late 19th century—but feral honeybees pollinated farms and orchards up and down the East Coast anyway. So critical to European success was the honeybee that Indians came to view it as a harbinger of invasion.”
“America, Found and Lost”, Charles C. Mann, National Geographic May 2007, pg 51
Honey bees (or honeybees) are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Currently, there are only 7 recognized species of honey bee with a total of 44 subspecies. The first Apis bees appear in the fossil record at the Eocene–Oligocene boundary, in European deposits. The origin of these prehistoric honey bees does not necessarily indicate that Europe is where the genus originated. There are few known fossil deposits in South Asia, the suspected region of honeybee origin, and fewer still have been thoroughly studied.
Snow Squarestem, Melanthera nivea
Arch Creek East Environmental Preserve, North Miami, FL