World Bee Day: Why Pollinators Need Your Help
20 May 2022
World Bee Day (May 20) celebrates the birth of beekeeper pioneer Anton Janša. But why are pollinators so important, and why do they need your help?
How did World Bee Day begin?
Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping and an expert in the field, was born in 1734. His birthday, May 20, commemorates World Bee Day, proposed by Slovenia and approved by the United Nations (UN) in 2017.
World Bee Day acknowledges and raises international awareness of the role bees and pollinators play in the ecosystem.
What do pollinators do?
Pollinators are animals that move pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. This process encourages fertilisation of the ovules in the flowers by the male gametes from the pollen grains. Fertilisation of the flower allows the flower to seed, reproduce, and disperse.
Bees are the most common pollinators. Other pollinators include certain wasps, ants, flies, mosquitoes, moths, butterflies, bats, birds, rodents, lizards, and humans.
Estimations indicate that insects, birds, and bats are responsible for pollinating at least one-third of the human food supply. Wild or domesticated bees are responsible for pollinating the majority.
Why are bees so special?
As well as being expert pollinators, certain bees produce honey, beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. The most commonly known species for this is the western honey bee.
Bees feed on nectar primarily as an energy source and pollen for protein and nutrients. Pollen is also a food source for larvae.
Bees often live socially in colonies, typically honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees. Over 16,000 known species of bees populate the planet, recognised by seven biological families. Excluding Antarctica, bees are found on every continent and in every habitat where insect-pollinated flowers grow.
One of the many fascinating things about bees is how they communicate together. The video below shows how bees communicate with each other to locate and collect resources.
Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore throughout history, covering a wide range of art and literature. They are documented mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, where beekeeping is far more common, dating back millennia to Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece.
Why are pollinators in decline?
Between 1980 and 2013, Nature Communications analysed 353 wild bee and hoverfly species across Britain.
The analysis found that over the 23 years there was an overall decrease in the wild insects by 33%. They noted that some species increased in population but overall still equated to a decline.
The reason species are declining is due to many pressures facing pollinators, including habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides.
"Trends of two example bee species illustrate contrasting patterns of change among species. Time series for Bombus humilis(blue) and Colletes succinctus (red) show the mean (solid line) and limits of the 95% credible intervals (dashed lines) of the posterior distribution of annual occupancy estimates"
How can I help protect bees?
Bee and pollinator conservation is critical for many different reasons. Here's how you can help.
- Stop using pesticides. Pesticides travel further than just the area you are spraying, especially on a windy day and can wipe out entire bee colonies.
- Encourage wild and native plants to grow. Bees need their natural habitat to survive and plants rich in nectar. They also help to pollinate and disperse these plants over a wider area providing natural habitats for other insects.
- Consider investing in a beehive. Bee-keeping is an art and requires training. However, the rewards of honey, a luscious garden, and knowing you're supporting an incredible species pays off.
- Look out for bees. During summer, bees can become exhausted due to the heat and lay on the pavement, appearing to be dead. This is not always the case, however, as sometimes you can help by moving them to a safe, shaded place/flower or feeding them a water and sugar solution 1:2. Bees can become dependent on this solution, so it should only be for emergencies.
- Put out water. Bees tire, just like humans do, and sometimes they need somewhere to refuel before continuing their journey. Putting out water in a dish full of pebbles allows bees to balance on the pebbles and to safely get a drink without drowning.
- Create wild areas. Wild areas that attract bugs and insects provide a source of food for bees and many other pollinators and insects. Log piles, long grass, wildflowers and stinging nettles are good examples of how you can do this.
The Leydon Lettings / World Bee Day Logo
Adapted for World Bee Day, the Leydon Lettings logo symbolises a honeycomb background and fuzzy yellow and black 'L's'.
"Bees are a type of fly, hardworking, created by God to provide man with all needed honey and wax. Amongst all God's beings there are none so hard working and useful to man with so little attention needed for its keep as the bee."
- Anton Janša
We hope you found this article helpful. Why not give our pollinating friends some love and share this with your friends?