The Buzz About World Bee Day

Experts, scientists, farmers, and enthusiasts got together to observe May 20 as the first World Bee Day. The United Nations declared May 20 as the World Bee Day in 2017 to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators, the threats they face today and their contribution to the food chain and sustainable development.

Honey bee
Apis mellifera

In December 2017, Slovenia had pitched a proposal before the UN General Assembly to declare May 20 as the World Bee Day. The date was chosen as a tribute to Slovenian 18th-century beekeeping expert Anton Jansa, who is credited with revolutionizing beekeeping with the use of technology. A number of events were organized across the world to mark the day and raise awareness about the challenges faced by pollinators and the importance of saving them. Over 150 beekeepers attended an international conference in Slovenia to vet issues concerning the role and challenges of bees in beekeeping. The central bank in Slovenia also released two commemorative Euro coins on the World Bee Day.

Talking about pollination, the process is the most important function of bees. Pollination is important as it facilitates reproduction among plants. During pollination, bees distribute pollen of flowers helping plants reproduce and in exchange they collect nectar from the flower. The quantity of pollen that a bee gets back to the hive depends on how big or developed the hive is. In a year, a bee colony uses up close to 20kg of pollen for itself.

These insects also have a crucial role to play in food production by way of distributing pollen from fruit trees. Bees pollinate 70% to 80% of the pollen of fruit trees and this share is rapidly rising due to rampant agricultural activity. The most common fruit trees which benefit from the existence of bees are strawberry, apple, pear, cherry trees, and peach. In this manner, pollination by bees bears a huge impact on food production and the existence of humans and many animals. The spoilt or misshaped fruits one spot indicate that the pollination process was incomplete or hindered. Farmers deduce the yield of a crop by pollination, which is best determined by the shape and size of the fruit. Incomplete pollination leads to the development of deformities in the fruit, and often fruits fall off from tree branches because of this reason. Sometimes, a fruit falling off a tree is also a result of lack of soil nutrients and ample sunlight.

For a smooth and timely pollination process, around two to three bee colonies per hectare for general fruit farming. In apple farming, three to four bee colonies per hectare are required and for pear and cherries around six to eight bee colonies per hectare are required.

In Slovenia, bees are one of the main reasons behind the rich diversity of the European country. Over 22,000 species live in Slovenia which makes it a great region to study the insects. Moreover, the Carniolan grey bee is one of the most famous bees found in Slovenia. In other European countries like Austria and US, fruit farmers pay beekeepers for the pollination services provided by their bees.

In the wake of increasing world population, there is also a simultaneous need for food. Apart from providing items like honey and beeswax, bees also ensure food security by pollination. Pollinators are responsible for almost three-fourths of the food production in the world. Moreover, a third of the world depends on bees to get food on their plate, which means we owe every third spoonful of food to bees.

Currently, the world is battling a different kind of crisis wherein the number of pollinators is on the decline while the need for pollination is on the rise. Bees are facing extinction in the wake of climate change and loss of habitat due to increased industrialization. A 2015 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature observes that around 10% of the bees across the world are facing extinction, 5% are endangered and there is no data available about the status of over 57% of the bees.

 

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