Bees, Environment

World Bee Day and why it matters

bee on flower

The number of bees globally are in decline and its being put down to the urbanisation of rural areas, use of chemical pesticides and changes in the weather and the environment. Just this week a survey in Canada of 900 Ontario beekeepers indicated that 70 per cent suffered unsustainable losses this past winter. The president of Ontario’s beekeepers association, Jim Coneybeare, says, “The number of dead or weak colonies is astounding. These could be the worst winter losses on record.”  With news like this it is was good to hear that the United Nations General Assembly have adopted a resolution declaring the 20th May to be World Bee Day, led by an initiative from Slovenia and their Bee Keeping Association. The Balqees team think it’s of utmost importance to champion the initiative and support what will become an annual event. This way we can help raise awareness of the significant role bees play in our ecosystem and highlight the need to protect them as they are crucial to our food supply.

Carla Mucavi, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
says, “Bees play a crucial role in increasing crop yields and promoting food security and nutrition. Without them, we could lose a variety of food such as potatoes, pepper, coffee, pumpkins, carrots, apples, almonds, tomatoes, just to name a few. In short, without bees, FAO cannot achieve a world without hunger. World Bee Day recognizes the importance of these tiny helpers and will increase awareness of the need to protect them.”

Data from the FAO reinforces what we already knew; bees and other pollinators are integral to ensuring the global safety of our food supply chain. A third of all food produced in the world depends on pollination. It is estimated that between $235 billion and $577 billion worth of annual global food production relies on direct contributions by pollinators.

Slovenia has a deep rooted history when it comes to bees and beekeeping and the country has been working hard to bring this to people’s attention further afield. It was one of the first countries in the European Union to introduce the legal protection of its bees and in 2011 they brought in a law prohibiting the use of certain pesticides harmful to bees. It now seems the rest of Europe is following suit and in April of this year it was reported that The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees. The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

The UN World Bee Day aims to raise awareness and connect people around the world encouraging the population to get involved with events and workshops and help educate the community and world at large.

Girl kissing a bee hive

World Bee Day

World Bee Day events

Some of the events happening around the world on May 20th 2018

Slovenia – The President of the Republic of Slovenia will give an open address to the public and beekeepers will be there to answer questions in The Honey Village where people can try local raw honey and take part in educational workshops.
Italy– Its pollinator season in Beigua Geople and there are hikes being organised exploring the scenic trails with a botanist leading the way explaining the flora and pollination process.
Greece – Storytelling competitions are being held in schools.
Canada – Games, picnics and workshops are being held for people to learn what can be done to save the bees.

And coming up later in the year

Holland – ’Learning from the Bees’ is a conference taking place from 31st – August – 2nd Sept. It is aimed at developing a ‘Culture of the Bee’ and moving away from commercial apicural practices. It’s encouraging children and adults to become more observant and to listen to the messages these pollinators are giving us about our relationship with the natural world. There will be speakers from the world of science, charities, NGO’s, honeybee conservation and environmental groups, artists, farmers and educators. This is encouraging to see as it involves a shared vision and strategies to move the bee-centred agenda forward across the world.

A Brief History of Raw Honey and Bees

  1. Through history raw honey has been considered a miracle food because of its cleansing and rejuvenating qualities and it has been highlighted in religious texts for its healing benefits. Honey has a long history of being traded, and ancient remains of honey have been found in clay vessels that date back thousands of years in Georgia. None of this would be possible without the honey bee.
  2. Apis mellifera is known as the western honeybee being the most commonly domesticated species. It is thought to have originated in Africa and spread from there to Northern Europe and East into Asia.
  3. Bees came to Europe and North America with settlers from Africa. It wasn’t until the early 1850’s that they reached California and then Canada. California is now one of the largest producers of honey in America.

5 Fascinating Facts about Bees

  1. Bees have five eyes and are constantly on the lookout for food and never miss out on an opportunity to forage and gather.
  2. Bees can fly as high as Mount Everest
  3. Bees use vibrations and release pheromones to communicate clearly across their colony and do a ‘waggle dance’ across the honeycomb showing where the strong flows of pollen and nectar are.
  4. The Oxford English Dictionary links the phrase ‘make a bee line’ to the focused, driven line a bee is “supposed instinctively to take in returning to its hive.”
  5. According to Friends of the Earth, 35 species of bees in the UK alone are under threat of extinction, and all species face serious threats.

a bee on a flower

How can we help the bees?

So what can you, your family and or your children’s school do to celebrate this amazing creature? Is there something you want to share about the environment and help raise awareness of the important part bees play in our eco system? Maybe your children’s school could hold an art competition or ‘busy bee’ quiz. How about a raw honey tasting class where you learn about the mono and multi-floral tastes profiles of raw honey and begin to understand the honey making process and how bees forage from flowers and plants collecting the nectar and pollen. If we take time to observe nature one begins to realise how magical it is and value it more. For resources for children take a look at the Eden Project website where you will find lots to inspire you including illustrations by Chris Bisson, Eden Project Plant Records Manager.

Help keep the conversation going and have fun marking World Bee Day from all of us at Balqees.

Links to main sites to learn more:
World Bee Day
Natural Bee Keeping Trust Conference
Eden Project
Ways to help bees and the planet on Honey Explorer
What we can learn from bees

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