World Bee Day: 10 Ways to Protect Bees and Safeguard Food Security

World Bee Day: 10 Ways to Protect Bees and Safeguard Food Security

In 2018, the United Nations nominated May 20 as ‘World Bee Day‘ to raise awareness of the importance of these pollinators in safeguarding food security and protect them from toxic synthetic pesticides and habitat loss due as a result of intensive agricultural practices, and rising temperatures due to climate change.

According to Wikipedia, a pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. This very act of moving from plant to plant to collect pollen for food, helps bees to fertilise plants so they will reproduce.

Bees aren’t the only pollinators that exist. Birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and wasps are all pollinators. However, bees play a significant role in the food system as they are responsible pollinators for over 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species and about 75% of global food crops. The annual financial contribution of bee pollination services to the global economy is an estimated $577 billion.

Bees play a vital role in the food system. Photo: Bianca Ackermann.

If the world’s bee population collapsed, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of food crops each year collapse along with it and the health and well-being of families and communities suffer.

Without bees, farmers and primary producers would need to pollinate by hand (an expensive and time-consuming task) staple food crops such as apples, pumpkins, almonds, avocados, cucumber and broccoli to name a few.

According to the book ‘Nature’s Gifts‘ by bee experts Athol and Skaidra Craig, if there were no bees, honey and pollen would be in short supply and expensive and it would restrict nutritional choices for families. Animals that predate bees such as lizards, birds and insects, would also be deprived of a food source. The entire food system is at risk if these vital pollinators are not protected.

“Horticulture crops and natural bush would suffer incomplete pollination resulting in dearer fruit and seeds of reduced quantity and quality,” the authors write.

“Medications prepared from honey, propolis and bee venom would not be available. And importantly, future research into the properties of these substances would be hampered.”

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How to protect and nurture bees

To avoid catastrophe and ensure a sustainable food system, the protection and nurturing of bees is essential.

Here are 10 ways you can help to support sustainable bee populations:

  • rather than planting lawns, create suitable bee habitats in your gardens and backyard,
  • construct bee hotels, build a bee nest or leave out hollow branches so that bees have shelter (especially important in built-up urban areas),
  • fill gardens with attractive plants and shrubs that will entice bees to visit such as sunflowers, lavender and marigolds,
  • allow some of your weeds, vegetables and herbs to run wild and go to flower as this will encourage bees into your garden,
  • avoid use of toxic synthetic herbicides and chemical fertilisers and maintain a chemical-free, organic garden instead,
  • leave out some shallow dishes of water in your garden or balcony so bees can hydrate on warm days,
  • support local beekeepers and professional apiarists by purchasing their honey,
  • educate your social networks about the importance of bees by sharing information, resources and articles,
  • take up beekeeping as a hobby or invite a beekeeper to store bee boxes and hives on your property, and
  • encourage your friends and family to do the same or at the very least, encourage them to plant bee gardens too.

Building a sustainable future will require humankind to work in harmony with other species in the ecosystem. Since bees are vital to our food system, it’s in our best interest to try and protect them – for all our sakes.

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Cover image via Unsplash.

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