Friday, January 16, 2009

Feral vs. Wild

Well, it’s -12F outside right now, so a good time to stay inside and post. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the difference between the words feral and wild. When I embarked on this sanctuary project, I knew very little about the ‘big picture’, responding only to alarming press regarding CCD and the loss of domestic honeybee hives. My initial response was to create a sanctuary and stock it with those forage plants favored by honeybees in an attempt to help support any nearby wild hives.

But much homework has to be done before establishing effective gardens so I set about to gather more information about honeybees in order to better select plants.

Among the many things I’ve read, I found an interesting paper. (see link on sidebar) Briefly, this paper documents the arrival of the European honeybee to North America less than 400 years ago. Those first hives were brought to N.A. because the plants that the settlers also brought with them were of little interest to most N.A. native pollinators. Also, Europeans had a taste for honey and a use for beeswax, so like, sheep and horses, beehives were an important livestock for them to bring along. Some of those honeybees then escaped to the environment while others, apparently, were let go deliberately to colonize ahead of the settlers, making the way easier for the settlers’ imported plants.

Well, this set me to pondering. Now I see that my initial thought of supporting ‘wild’ honeybees was in error, or at least misguided. There are no wild honeybees, only domestic livestock that is living outside of human-built bee hives. All those honeybees living in hollow trees or caves or crevasses or in the walls of garages are considered to be feral. (Wikipedia: A feral organism is one that has escaped from domestication and returned, partly or wholly, to its wild state. The introduction of feral animals or plants, like any introduced species, can disrupt ecosystems and may, in some cases, contribute to extinction of indigenous species.)

And that note about 'indigenous species' concerned me. So I set off to see what I could find out about how feral honeybees can impact native pollinators and the relationship they have with native plants. I dug up some interesting articles, but this post is already at its limits. Tune in and I'll share some of what I turned up. Be back soon!


  1. Kris, it has never occurred to me that a hobby can be so serious like what you're doing. To me, your project looks like a PhD thesis in wildlife! Whoa... I wish I could do something to help!
    I occasionally see some "bees" in my Saigon garden. I had once even collected some honey from a "wild" hive right on my property. Some time ago, I had a colony of bees (small size) living on one of the stone gate columns, but we'd never thought of "reserving" them. We even didn't want them to be there 'cause sometime they would attack us if we happened to hit them accidentally! Maybe later today, I'll check to see if they're still there or not!
    Thanks for this interesting project! I'll follow you along to learn about bees.

  2. So interesting. I am really learning a lot on your blog!

  3. Xuan & gardenerprogress - thanks for visiting the blog. :-)

    I, too, am learning a lot. My reading and research makes me want to learn even more about native pollinators and plants and their relationships. And blogging is a simple and fun way to share what I learn. Besides, I figure I can't help but garden, might as well direct it toward some good use!

  4. I read this with interest, not realizing it was going to be a "cliffhanger". I have had several kinds of bees and wasps over the years, and they don't seem to mind too much when I deadhead. I didn't know what the word "feral" actually meant. Thanks for sharing the good information.

  5. I love your picture, by the way. My husband walked by, asking me if it was one I had taken. He liked it, too.

  6. Thanks, Sue. It seems I have to take tons of pics to get some nice ones. I'm just finishing up my 'native' post. Stay tuned... ;-)

  7. Thanks for the link to the bottom heater! I will be looking into trying that.


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