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Is consuming honey bad for the environment? - OneSharedEarth
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Does human consumption of honey imply that bees don't have enough to eat, die of starvation or are killed, and are unable to pollinate, thus it being harmful for the environment?
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Honey is produced by the western honey bee which is effectively a livestock animal, which has been bred to pollinate crops or produce honey. 


Buying their farmed honey is harmful to the environment by contributing to the decline of wild pollinator species in the following ways:

1.   High densities of honeybees which are associated with beekeeping can outcompete wild pollinators (Geldmann and González-Varo, 2018).

Honeybees are also associated with reduced reproductive success of wild flowers (Ainhoa Magrach and others, 2017). This, in turn, could also reduce wild pollinator populations. 

2.   Honeybees spread diseases to wild pollinators

Honeybees spread diseases to wild pollinators by visiting the same flowers (Geldmann and González-Varo, 2018). This spread of disease is exacerbated as honeybees are traded.


There are three main ways that the honey industry harms honeybees:

1.   Honeybees make the honey for themselves 

Honey is made by the honeybees to be eaten by them during winter, it contains all the nutrients for the honeybees to remain healthy. Many bee farmers collect the majority of honey produced by their hives and feed them a sugar syrup instead. This does not contain many of the essential elements that the bees need to stay healthy.

2.   It is common practice for bee hives to be burned, drowned or gassed when unprofitable.

3.   We have made them more susceptible to diseases and parasites

We have selectively bred honeybees which has reduced their genetic diversity dramatically. This has made them more vulnerable to diseases and parasites.



Ainhoa Magrach and others, “Honeybee Spillover Reshuffles Pollinator Diets and Affects Plant Reproductive Success” (2017) 1 Nature Ecology & Evolution 1299.

Dan Charles, npr (2018), “Honeybees Help Farmers, But They Don't Help The Environment”.

Diana Lupica, Plant Based News (2017) “Is Honey Vegan? It’s Not As Sweet As You Think”.

Jonas Geldmann and Juan P González-Varo, “Conserving Honey Bees Does Not Help Wildlife” (2018) 359 Science 392.

North Carolina State University, Science Daily (2013) "Genetic diversity key to survival of honey bee colonies."

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