Project Eleven Hundred is organized to ensure that native plants and the pollen and nectar they produce are available to sustain the full diversity of native bee species on national public lands; to provide scientific and management information to public land managers on native bees and the biological communities they depend upon; and publicly advocate for native bees.
The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is an import from Europe. The placement of honey bee hives on public lands can bring millions of these non-native bees into the territories of native bees. The honey bees outcompete the native bees for pollen and nectar, and transmit diseases to the native bees. Rare or uncommon plants may have difficulty reproducing if they are pollinated by a specialized native bee that has been reduced or eliminated by the presence of honey bees. Honey bee apiaries (groups of hives) should not be permitted on public lands.
The work of Project Eleven Hundred began in 2018 when a retired bee biologist (Vince Tepedino) contacted Mary O’Brien, then Utah Forests Program Director for Grand Canyon Trust. He was alarmed that the nation’s largest honey bee company (Adee Honey Farms, headquartered in South Dakota) had requested a US Forest Service permit to park 4,900 honey bee hives for several months on the Manti-La Sal National Forest in central Utah. Mary’s masters and doctorate are in pollination biology. She understood how devastating the Adee Honey apiaries would be to native bees, and began working with the Center for Biological Diversity to prevent the issuance of that permit.
In 2020, Project Eleven Hundred was established as a nonprofit organization to focus on ending the permitting of apiaries on national public lands; and to ensure that native flowers, pollen, nectar, and habitats are available on these lands to support the lands’ full diversity of native bees.
NEWS + NOTES ON NATIVE BEES
And now? On to California.
The entrance of Project Eleven Hundred into communications with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managers in California in 2024 is a big deal. It’s the state with the largest number of native bee species: approximately 1,600 – almost half of the 3,600 species found in all of North America; the largest number of plant species, and the second largest number (after Hawaii) of plant species at risk of extinction. Unfortunately, it’s also the state producing the second largest amount of honey (after North Dakota). Which means an enormous number of honey bee hives are being placed somewhere in the state every year.
As for decisionmakers on the fate of native bees, California is the state with the largest number of Forest Service Ranger Districts (68), and the largest number of BLM field offices (15). Any of the District Rangers and any of the BLM Field Managers may or may not be issuing permits for placement of honey bee hives among the native bees on the lands they manage. As Project Eleven Hundred enters California this year, we will be learning – with others - how best to approach our task of ending the permitting of apiaries on all national forests and BLM lands – including in California. We will let you know how we are doing.
Photo: Crotch’s bumble bee (Bombus crotchii).
Captured by Xerces Society • Stephanie McKnight
Roadside bees: What kind of habitat are we providing?
In 2021 and 2022, Project Eleven Hundred Board Treasurer Thomas Meinzen surveyed bee and butterfly communities along roadsides in Idaho to help understand how road margins can be better managed to support declining pollinators. He wasn’t sure what to expect—after all, most roadsides are mowed, sprayed, and weed-dominated, with cars and trucks colliding with insects and chemicals leaching from vehicles and asphalt. They are not ideal places for pollinators. Despite this, he found about 70 species of bees along southern Idaho highways, including a variety of sweat bees (Halictids), mason bees (Osmia), long-horned bees (Melissodes and Eucera), and chimney bees (Diadasia).
Thomas found several roadsides with few flowers but lots of bees. Most often, these bee rich roadsides bordered public land where native habitat is still more or less intact. In southern Idaho, these areas were often Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands where native sagebrush communities persisted. Even though these habitats rarely appear full of flowers, they supported remarkably diverse bee communities. It is on intact public land ecosystems that Project Eleven Hundred is working to protect native bees and the plants they pollinate from non-native European honey bees.
If managed carefully with limited, well-time mowing and reduced application of herbicides, some roadsides may be able to supplement more intact habitats and potentially benefit bees. But without larger swaths of public land, they won’t be nearly enough to sustain bee populations. And in some places, the threats of roadside lands might outweigh the benefits for bees.
Photo: A monarch butterfly deposits its egg on a milkweed plant as vehicles and trailers whizz by on Highway 20 in SE Idaho.
Captured by Thomas Meinzen
To learn more, you can read a review of the potential benefits and threats of roadside lands for pollinators which Thomas published last month in BioScience, or listen to Thomas and his co-authors sharing takeaways in the episode of the BioScience Talks podcast.