Supporters of new controls for urban beekeeping say popularity is putting the squeeze on Quebec's wild bees

The urban beekeeping boom may actually be squeezing out native species that were busy pollinating Quebec plants long before honey bees were brought in from Europe.

Montreal opposition councillors to table a motion to limit non-native beehives in the city

Urban beekeeping is increasingly popular in Montreal, but the city's opposition party wants to control the practice in order to make room for native bee species. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

There is a downside to the urban beehive boom in Montreal.

Entomologists say honey bee hives are a growing threat to native pollinators.

They are squeezing out the native species that were busy pollinating Quebec plants long before European honey bees were imported into the province — and Montreal's official opposition party wants the city to do something about it.

Ensemble Montréal plans to table a motion later this month that would control the number of non-native beehives in the city. 

Francesco Miele, an opposition councillor from the Saint-Laurent borough, said the motion also calls on the city to rethink what flowers and other plants it cultivates in order to help local bees thrive.

Simple measures could make a huge difference, he said.

For example, the city needs to "change the kind of flowers that we plant and make sure that we're able to plant in our green spaces — plants that pollinators nourish themselves from," Miele said.

He also wants the city to find out how many hives there are for non-native bees.

Entomologists agree with motion

Entomologists from two Montreal universities support the motion.

"We have enough species of bees in Montreal and we don't need another species," said Étienne Normandin, an entomologist at the Université de Montréal.

Gail McInnis, a PhD candidate from McGill University's entomology department, said non-native bees end up feasting on the plants that local species need to survive.

"When you have a honey bee hive, they can have 50,000 to 100,000 individuals in one colony," she said. "Whereas most of our wild bees are solitary."

Ensemble Montréal's motion will be presented to council on June 17.


With files from Antoni Nerestant


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