In the west, we almost always think of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) as domesticated and living in bee boxes and beehives.

We haven’t been taught much about bees, so many people don’t know that wild honeybees live in forests, in tree cavities. In truth, honeybees do not need human interaction in order to thrive. They lived without people for a long time, and still do so in the wild.

There are quite a few such wild bees living in forests around Central Europe, and we have blogged about this before a few times. They are often high up the side of a tree, to keep their nest safe from prowling creatures that might want to eat their honey and even their pupae and larvae.

Their nest needs to be a big enough space for the honey and all the hive members and baby bees to expand the population of the hive, but it must be small enough to keep the temperature under control and so the home space is not at the mercy of predators or the elements.

A brilliant book has been published about wild bees, called Wild Honey Bees, subtitle is An Intimate Portrait. The authors are Ingo Arndt, a world class nature photographer, and Jürgen Tautz, a bee expert and behavioral scientist. It is one of the most remarkable and revealing books about bees ever written and photographed.

This unrelated 10:18-minute video by ruchebio is called Bees In The Heart of Trees. Although this is still natural wild bee life, it is intervention by humans making a hive in a tree:



Bees do not carve out tree hollows for their nests, they count on other creatures to do that. It is a painstaking and intense job for bees to get a tree hollow ready for their bee tribe, and can take generations of bees to completely prepare the nest.

Then there is the question of parasites and how wild bees deal with the threat of such invasions. In the book Wild Honey Bees, we learn about some surprising allies of wild honeybees, and how they naturally help solve such problems.

Forest honey is from the secretions of aphids and scale insects much more so than from forest flowers. Check out some of our blog posts about the disastrous fires in Greek and Turkish pine forests last year to see how precious the bees are in such an environment, and how fragile the natural infrastructure is. The devastating fires there mean that pine honey will not be available for around 60 years, because the trees must reach a certain level of maturity before aphids can excrete honeydew again, which bees turn into honey.

If you have time, watch a 16:50-minute video by Black Mountain Honey to see some bees in a collapsed tree that seem to need help:



The symbiotic relationship between wild bees and trees means that the bees are good for the forest, and the forest is good for the bees. While people around the world love to raise and keep bees, we should all be thankful that there is a healthy population of wild honeybees as well, living in nature and able to survive without human intervention.