Why Pollinators Need Your Help on World Bee Day
20 May 2019
May 20 celebrates World Bee Day and the birth of beekeeper pioneer Anton Janša. But why are pollinators so important and why do they need our help?
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.
Anton Janša, Yugoslavia stamp, 1973 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
World Bee Day acknowledges and raises international awareness to the role bees and other pollinators play in the ecosystem.
Pollinators are animals that move pollen from the male anther of a flower, to the female stigma of a flower. This encourages fertilisation of the ovules in the flower by the male gametes from the pollen grains. Fertilisation of the flower allows the flower to seed, reproduce and disperse.
The most commonly known and major pollinators are bees, however there are many others; including certain types of wasps, ants, flies, mosquitoes, moths, butterflies, bats, birds, rodents, lizards and even humans.
Estimations indicate that insects, birds and bats are responsible for pollinating at least one third of the human food supply. With bees pollinating the majority; whether wild, or domesticated.
Bee feeding while collecting nectar (Source: Flickr)
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.
Honey bees swarm on honey cells (Source: Pixabay)
Bees feed on nectar primarily as an energy source and pollen for protein and nutrients. Pollen is also a food source for larvae.
Bees tend to 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 Antartica, bees can be found on every continent and in every habitat on the planet where there are insect-pollinated flowering plants.
One of the many fascinating things about bees, is how they communicate with each other. Take a look at the video below to see how they communicate in order 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.
Between 1980 and 2013, Nature Communications carried out an analysis on 353 wild bee and hoverfly species across Britain.
The analysis found that over the 23 years their was an overall decrease in the wild insects by 33%. They noted that some species did increase in population, but overall this still equated to a decline.
The reason for this decline in species is due to a number of pressures facing pollinators, including: habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides.
Bee Specie Analysis, 1980-2013 (Source: Nature Communications)
"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 To Help Bees
Bee and pollinator conservation is important for many different reasons and 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 that are rich in nectar. They also help to pollinate and disperse these plants over a wider area and provide natural habitats for other insects.
- Consider investing in a bee hive. 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 end up lying on the pavement, appearing to be dead. This is not always the case however, as you can sometimes help by moving them to a safe, shaded place/flower; or feed them a water and sugar solution 1:2. Bees can become dependent on this solution though, so it should only be given in emergencies
- Put out water. Bees tire, just as humans do and sometimes they just need somewhere to refuel before continuing their journey. Put out some water in a dish with some pebbles in it. This allows bees to balance on the pebbles and to get a drink without drowning.
- Create wild areas. Wild areas that attract bugs and insects are great as they provide a source of food for not only bees, but many other pollinators and insects. Log piles, long grass, wild flowers and stinging nettles are a good example of how you can do this.
Bees balancing on a rock whilst drinking water (Source: Pixabay)
The World Bee Day / Leydon Logo
Symbolising a honey comb background and fuzzy yellow and black 'L's', the Leydon logo has been adapted for World Bee Day.
World Bee Day Leydon Logo
"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?