It was assumed until recently that wild populations of Apis mellifera, the western honeybee, went extinct in Europe. Recent research and field studies reveal that wild honeybees are still quite alive in forests, with colonies nesting in tree cavities.
Dr. Fabrice Requier of the Biocenter of Julius-Maximilians-University (JMU) in Würzburg, Germany, shared some interesting news about wild honeybees. European forests are providing habitat for approximately 80,000 colonies of wild honeybees. Researchers say more attention should be paid to preserving the nesting sites of these insects, as many are threatened.
This 1:08-minute long video shows wild honeybees living in a Florida tree cavity:
Wild honeybees have so far only been observed in Germany and northern Poland, specifically the Hainich Forest and the Biosphere Reserve Swabian Alb. JMU has been leading research groups from Italy, France, Czech Republic and Germany, in pursuit of other suitable habitats in Europe. These four teams studied 106 forest areas across Europe, analyzing tree cavity densities. As reported in the journal Conservation Letters, they infer an estimated 80,000 wild honeybee colonies can be found in European forests and in nesting trees in such sparsely treed places as the coniferous forests of Finland and Sweden.
According to researchers, the hot spots where you can expect to find these wild honeybees in vast numbers of nesting sites are in unmanaged forests like national park areas.
In line with the EU strategy to halt the decline of honeybees and other pollinators, it is a worthwhile goal to include the conservation of trees with cavities in forest management, including in commercial forests.