Bee Engaged With Youth – World Bee Day

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Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats, and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat due to human activities. Pollination is vital for the survival of ecosystems, with nearly 90% of wild flowering plant species and over 75% of food crops relying on animal pollination.

Moreover, pollinators are also crucial for food security and biodiversity conservation. To highlight their importance, the UN designated May 20 as World Bee Day. The aim is to enhance measures to protect pollinators, thereby addressing global food supply issues and reducing hunger, especially in developing countries.

Getting young people involved
World Bee Day 2024 focuses on the theme “Bee engaged with Youth,” emphasizing the involvement of young people in beekeeping and pollinator conservation. This year’s campaign seeks to raise awareness among youth and other stakeholders about the critical role of pollinators in agriculture, ecological balance, and biodiversity.

Engaging young people in beekeeping activities, educational initiatives, and advocacy can inspire future environmental leaders and empower them to make a positive impact.

Severe threats to bees worldwide
Immediate action is necessary as bees face severe threats, with species extinction rates 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. Nearly 35% of invertebrate pollinators, like bees and butterflies, and 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, are at risk of extinction globally.

The continuation of this trend could lead to the replacement of nutritious crops with staple crops like rice, corn, and potatoes, resulting in an imbalanced diet.

Intensive farming practices, land-use changes, monocropping, pesticides, and climate change-related higher temperatures all pose significant threats to bee populations.

Prioritizing conservation on World Bee Day
Recognizing the pollination crisis, the Convention on Biological Diversity has prioritized the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators. The International Pollinator Initiative (IPI), established in 2000, aims to monitor pollinator decline, address the lack of taxonomic information, assess the economic value of pollination, and protect pollinator diversity.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) coordinates the IPI and provides technical assistance on issues such as queen breeding, artificial insemination, and sustainable honey production and export marketing.

The decline of pollinators affects global food production, as their role in pollinating food crops is indispensable.

By fostering diverse agricultural systems and reducing reliance on toxic chemicals, we can facilitate increased pollination, improving food quality and quantity. This benefits human populations and the ecosystem as a whole. Moreover, pollinators also play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and ensuring the resilience of ecosystems.

Protecting our pollinators
There are numerous national and international initiatives dedicated to the protection of pollinators. These efforts are essential for safeguarding our food supply and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

By promoting sustainable agricultural practices and protecting pollinator habitats, we can help reverse the decline of these vital species and ensure their survival for future generations.

How can we help improve bee conservation?

Individually:

  • Plant diverse native plants that flower throughout the year.
  • Purchase raw honey from local farmers.
  • Support sustainable agricultural products.
  • Avoid using pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides in gardens.
  • Protect wild bee colonies when possible.
  • Sponsor a beehive.
  • Create a bee water fountain by placing a water bowl outside.
  • Help sustain forest ecosystems.
  • Raise awareness by sharing information within communities and networks.

As beekeepers or farmers:

  • Reduce or modify pesticide use.
  • Diversify crops and plant attractive crops around fields.
  • Create hedgerows.

As governments and decision-makers:

  • Enhance local community participation in decision-making, especially indigenous peoples.
  • Implement strategic measures and provide financial incentives.
  • Foster collaboration among national and international organizations, and academic networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services.

Fascinating facts about bees
Beyond the critical ecological roles they play in our world, bees are truly fascinating creatures. There are over 20,000 known species of bees, and they come in diverse sizes, colors, and behaviors. Not all bees live in hives; many are solitary and make their nests in the ground or in hollow stems.

Navigation
Bees have an exceptional sense of direction which allows them to navigate and find their way back to their hive, even over long distances. They use landmarks, the position of the sun, and even magnetic fields to orient themselves.

Thermoregulation
Honeybees can regulate the temperature of their hive. During the winter, they generate heat by shivering, and to cool the hive during hot conditions, they collect water and distribute it throughout the hive, fanning their wings to evaporate it and cool the air.

The Queen bee
In many bee species, the queen can live for several years, whereas worker bees may only live for a few weeks. Queens are the only females in the hive to reproduce, spending their lives laying eggs, sometimes up to 2,000 a day in peak season.

Communication
Bees communicate with each other using a “waggle dance” to convey information about the direction and distance to sources of food. This dance includes various movements that can inform other bees precisely where to find nectar and pollen.

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