Bee engaged: Build Back Better for Bees

World Bee Day 2022 is on Friday, 20 May 2022. Bee Day celebrations raise awareness about the threats to pollinators like bees by human activities. In December 2017, the United Nations (UN) approved this day and the First World Bee Day was celebrated on Sunday, 20 May 2018. In the current year 2022, the fifth observance of this special day is taking place. On this date, 20 May, the pioneer of beekeeping Anton Janša was born in 1734 in Slovenia.

The purpose of World Bee Day is to acknowledge the role of bees and other pollinators for the ecosystem. The UN Member States approved the proposal of  Slovenia to proclaim 20 May as World Bee Day in December 2017.

World Bee Day theme 2022 is “Bee engaged: Build Back Better for Bees”
By this theme, The United Nations focused on the threats of protection posed by COVID-19 to bees and other pollinators. The UN also urged upon bee-keeping awareness and the importance of bee-derived products. This Theme of Bee Day 2022 provides a direction for all the celebrations of World Bee Day 2022. The food and agriculture organization of the United Nations FAO will organize a virtual event on 20 May 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By this theme of World Bee Day, the United Nations had stressed upon the protection of bees, other pollinators and their habitats.

The Bees:

There are almost 20,000 different species of bees in the world. Bees live in colonies. In each colony, there are three types of bees, the queen bee, the worker bee, and the drone. The worker and the queen bee both are females, but only the queen bee can reproduce. All drones are male. The worker bees clean the hive, collect pollen and nectar to feed the colony and take care of the offspring. The drone only mates with the queen bee. The queen’s job is to lay eggs only. Some well-known types of bees are as under;

The Honey Bee: Honey bees are classed as ‘social’ bees, as they live in big colonies usually of around 50,000 – 60,000 workers. There are 10 types of honey bees across the world.
Colony Collapse Disorder or the ‘missing bees’ phenomenon is the major problem of Honey bees. Honey bees are also a source of crop pollination and to put food on our plates in the form of honey.

The Bumble Bee: Most bumblebees keep small colonies, from 50 to 400 workers. Bumblebees are excellent pollinators of flowers. Their furry body shape reduces their efficiency of pollination a little bit, but they also have the ability to ‘buzz pollinate’.

The Leaf Cutter and Mason Bees: These types of bees are buzz bees. These are also solitary bees. Usually, a single female mason bee constructs a nest alone and provides for the egg cells that become larvae.

The Digger Bee and Carpenter Bee: The solitary and good pollination are the qualities of digger bees. These bees usually make their nests in the soil. Their body is hairy and can be up to 3 cm long.

The Mining Bee: Andrena is the name of Mining Bee. These bees have a huge family, consisting of thousands of types of bees. These bees are solitary, and female bees usually build nests quite close to each other.

The importance of bees:

Food security: In order to be able to feed the world’s growing population, we need ever more food, which must be diverse, balanced and of good quality to ensure the progress and well-being of humankind.

Bees are renowned for their role in providing high-quality food (honey, royal jelly and pollen) and other products used in healthcare and other sectors (beeswax, propolis, honey bee venom). But the work of bees entails much more!

The greatest contribution of bees and other pollinators is the pollination of nearly three quarters of the plants that produce 90% of the world’s food. A third of the world’s food production depends on bees, i.e., every third spoonful of food depends on pollination.

Sustainable farming and income: Over the past 50 years, the number of crops that depend on pollinators (i.e. fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oilseeds) has tripled. Bees play an important role in relation to the scope of agricultural production. Effective pollination increases the amount of agricultural produce, improves their quality and enhances plants’ resistance to pests.

Cultivated plants that depend on pollination are an important source of income to farmers, especially smaller farmers and family-owned farms in developing countries. They provide jobs and income to millions of people. According to the estimates of an international study conducted in 2016 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the annual global production of food that depends directly on pollination was worth between $235 and $577 billion.

Biodiversity and environmental protection: Bees are vital for the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. They provide one of the most recognisable ecosystem services, i.e. pollination, which is what makes food production possible. By doing so, they protect and maintain ecosystems as well as animal and plant species, and contribute to genetic and biotic diversity.

Bees also act as indicators of the state of the environment. Their presence, absence or quantity tells us when something is happening with the environment and that appropriate action is needed. By observing the development and health of bees, it is possible to ascertain changes in the environment and implement the necessary precautionary measures in time.

Reasons for endangered bees:

Owing to different reasons, bees are endangered, including habitat loss, pesticides, and other anthropogenic causes. Declining numbers of different species of bees have been noticed around the world, which means that there is a real risk of additional species. In a span of seven years, the United States saw approximately 1.6 million bees die off each year. Unfortunately, Honey bees are being affected by a widespread bacterial disease called American foulbrood. But fortunately, FDA has approved three antibiotics oxytetracycline, tylosin tartrate, and lincomycin hydrochloride— to control this devastating honey bee disease. These antibiotics are approved to control American foulbrood because they are also used to treat diseases in people.

Climate change and bees:

Climate change is the root cause of many environmental issues. For example, the Gourd Bee has a decline in numbers in recent years. The gourd bee lives upon vegetables such as squash or pumpkins. However, climate change has reduced the production of these vegetables, which has an impact on the growth of gourd bees. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have stated that climate change can affect Rusty Patched Bumble Bee in several different ways, including, “increased temperature and precipitation extremes, increased drought, early snow-melt, and late frost events.”

Climate changes affect bees both directly and indirectly, the scientists has alarmed that the earlier winter thaws, the earlier snow and frost thaws, and the earlier flowers blooming if bees will be able to keep up with these changing environments. Bees in Australia are dying at high alarming rates, high-density populations and flowerless small gardens are also the bees affecting factors in Australia.

According to Time Magazine, “For the study, researchers looked at 110 years of data on 67 bumblebee species to track their movements over time. Activity between 1901 and 1974 was compared to movement in recent decades when climate change accelerated. In the northern end of their range, bees have failed to migrate closer to the North Pole. In the southern end, many populations have died. Altogether, bees have lost a range of up to nearly 200 miles in both North America and Europe. The study, which evaluated land-use changes and pesticide application in addition to weather conditions, attributed the drop to climate change.”

At the moment, a lot of factors including climate change are creating danger for bee species, and scientists are under pressure to find out ways to mitigate these deleterious effects on bee populations. If emergency steps are not taken now, then additional species of bees may be on the endangered list.


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