Today we celebrate Earth’s miracle workers on the third annual World Bee Day.
Bees, which are integral pollinators, are responsible for almost 75% of the world’s food crops. They perform a service that is almost impossible to replicate.
From coffee to cucumbers, we have bees to thank for the fruit, vegetables and many of the beverages we consume everyday.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), there are over 20,000 species of bees, many of them wild.
Other pollinators essential to the health of plants and humans include moths, flies, wasps, butterflies and beetles, as well as bats, many species of monkeys, rodents and birds.
Pollination, or the transfer of pollen from the male anther of a plant to the female stigma, which allows plants to be fertilised, is how seeds are produced, and creates offspring for future plant generations.
Without bees and other pollinators, plants that we rely on for food and goods would no longer grow.
Bees are more important than ever, with the world’s population numbers continuing to soar. Without them, we would not have enough food to eat, and neither would the livestock we consume.
In the last 50 years alone, humans’ dependence on pollinators for crop diversity has increased by 300%, the FAO said.
But bees are in trouble, with the United Nations estimating extinction rates to be 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal, because of human beings farming intensively, pesticides and climate change. 17% of other pollinators also face extinction around the globe.
The UN warned that should this trend continue, humans will end up with an imbalanced diet, with nutritious crops losing their most essential workers.
Farmers and beekeepers have a very important role to play in the survival of bees. But the current Covid-19 pandemic has proved challenging for beekeepers and the beekeeping industry.
That is why World Bee Day 2020’s ‘bee engaged’ theme focuses on bee production and good beekeeping practices, and sustainable, quality products.
So, what can ordinary city slickers do to save the bees?
The UN suggests planting different indigenous plants in your garden that flower all year round, to buy raw honey from local bee farmers or institutions with known sustainable farming practices, or even sponsoring a hive.
Another good bee practice is to leave a bowl of water outside, with a few pebbles scattered in the bowl, for thirsty bees to stop by for a drink.
Where possible, raise awareness to prevent the extinction of the world’s most important workers, and most importantly, do not use pesticides.