World Bee Day, how it was born and why it is May 20th

World Bee Day is celebrated on May 20th. Precious insects, vital to our survival on Earth but seriously threatened by pesticides, climate change, pollution and habitat loss.

Despite their crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and biodiversity, bees are often overlooked. They provide one of the most recognizable ecosystem services: pollination, which is essential for food production. By doing so, bees protect ecosystems and animal and plant species, contributing to genetic and biotic diversity.

Bees also serve as indicators of environmental health. Their presence, absence, or quantity can inform us about the state of our environment and whether urgent action is needed.

How world bee day came to be

This is why, six years ago, World Bee Day was established. In 2018, the United Nations designated May 20 as World Bee Day to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face, and their contribution to sustainable development.

The goal is to enhance measures to protect bees and other pollinators, which could significantly address global food supply issues and eliminate hunger in developing countries.

Why world bee day is on May 20

Slovenia proposed that May 20 be recognized as World Bee Day, and it was accepted. This date is significant as it marks the northern hemisphere’s bees and nature thriving and rejuvenating post-winter, while in the southern hemisphere, it’s autumn when the fruits of their labor are harvested, and the honey season begins. Moreover, May 20 is the birthday of Anton Janša (1734–1773), a pioneering Slovenian beekeeper and one of the greatest bee authorities. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria appointed him the permanent teacher of beekeeping at the new school of apiculture in Vienna. He became renowned even before his death in 1773, and post-1775, all state beekeeping teachers had to teach according to his methods.

Why it’s important to celebrate and protect bees

To feed the growing global population, we need more food, which must be diverse, balanced, and of good quality. As we know, the greatest contribution made by bees and other insects is the pollination of nearly three-quarters of the plants that produce 90% of the world’s food. A third of global food production depends on bees.

Over the past 50 years, the amount of crops that rely on pollinators (such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and oilseeds) has tripled. Bees play a significant role in the scope of agricultural production. Effective pollination increases the quantity of agricultural products, improves their quality, and enhances plant resistance to pests.

Pollinator-dependent crops are a significant source of income for farmers, particularly small-scale and family-run farms in developing countries, providing employment and income for millions.

An international study conducted in 2016 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services estimated that the global annual food production directly dependent on pollination is worth between $235 billion and $577 billion.

How we can help bees

We can also do our part to safeguard these valuable insects. Here are some tips provided by the United Nations:

  • Plant a variety of native plants that bloom at different times of the year;
  • Buy raw honey from local growers;
  • Purchase products from sustainable agricultural practices;
  • Avoid pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides in our gardens;
  • Protect wild bee colonies when possible;
  • Adopt a beehive;
  • Create a bee fountain by leaving a bowl of water outside;
  • Help support forest ecosystems;
  • Raise awareness in our communities and networks by sharing this information.

Governments, for their part, should strengthen community participation in decision-making, particularly those of indigenous populations who understand and respect ecosystems and biodiversity, and increase collaboration between national and international academic and research networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services.

Bees represent a heritage that must be protected, upon which the life of every one of us depends.

Sources: Worldbeeday, UN

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