Tn hree out of four crops across the globe producing fruits or seeds for humause as food depend, at least in part, on bees and other pollinators.
Three out of four crops across the globe producing fruits, or seeds for use as human food depend, at least in part, on bees and other pollinators. ©FAO/Greg Beals

We all depend on the survival of bees

Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities.

Pollination is, however, a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity.

To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day.

The goal is to strengthen measures aimed at protecting bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger in developing countries.

We all depend on pollinators and it is, therefore, crucial to monitor their decline and halt the loss of biodiversity.

Bee engaged!

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the beekeeping sector affecting the production, the market and as a consequence, the livelihoods of beekeepers.

This year, World Bee Day focused on bee production and good practices adopted by beekeepers to support their livelihoods and deliver good quality products.

To mark the Day, a virtual event - under the theme "Bee Engaged" - highlighted the importance of traditional knowledge related to beekeeping, the use of bee-derived products and services, and their importance in achieving the SDGs. If you missed it, you can watch it here

To celebrate #WorldBeeDay, renowned actors, singers, chefs and media professionals also recorded poems related to bees and beekeeping, some recalling how the behavior of bees so often mirrors that of human beings across our planet. Listen to the poems now and bee inspired.

Do you know all the different pollinators?

infographie illustrant les silhouettes des différents pollinisateurs;

We need to act now

Bees are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. Close to 35 percent of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17 percent of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction globally.

If this trend continues, nutritious crops, such as fruits, nuts and many vegetable crops will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet.

Intensive farming practices, land-use change, mono-cropping, pesticides and higher temperatures associated with climate change all pose problems for bee populations and, by extension, the quality of food we grow.

Recognizing the dimensions of the pollination crisis and its links to biodiversity and human livelihoods, the Convention on Biological Diversity has made the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators a priority. In 2000, the International Pollinator Initiative (IPI) was established (COP decision V/5, section II) at the Fifth Conference of Parties (COP V) as a cross-cutting initiative to promote the sustainable use of pollinators in agriculture and related ecosystems. Its main goals are monitoring pollinators decline, addressing the lack of taxonomic information on pollinators, assessing the economic value of pollination and the economic impact of the decline of pollination services and protect pollinator diversity.

Along with coordinating the International Pollinator Initiative (IPI), the FAO also provides technical assistance to countries on issues ranging from queen breeding to artificial insemination to sustainable solutions for honey production and export marketing.

Discover other initiatives, national and international, dedicated to the protection of pollinators.

>> Facilitated by FAO

How can we do more?

Individually by: 

  • planting a diverse set of native plants, which flower at different times of the year;
  • buying raw honey from local farmers;
  • buying products from sustainable agricultural practices;
  • avoiding pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in our gardens;
  • protecting wild bee colonies when possible;
  • sponsoring a hive;
  • making a bee water fountain by leaving a water bowl outside;
  • helping sustaining forest ecosystems;
  • raising awareness around us by sharing this information within our communities and networks; The decline of bees affects us all!

As beekeepers, or farmers by:

  • reducing, or changing the usage of pesticides;
  • diversifying crops as much as possible, and/or planting attractive crops around the field;
  • creating hedgerows.

As governments and decision-makers by:

  • strengthening the participation of local communities in decision-making, in particular that of indigenous people, who know and respect ecosystems and biodiversity;
  • enforcing strategic measures, including monetary incentives to help change;
  • increasing collaboration between national and international organizations, organizations and academic and research networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services.

More tips on how to help bees and other pollinators

Watch

Resources

Documents

More information

It's not just about the honey

What would a world without bees look like? Listen to FAO’s Abram Bicksler about the importance of pollinators for ensuring the world's food security.

Why 20 May?

20 May coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard, while needing so little attention.

Manuela Choc López, 21, is a coffee producer and beekeeper in Guatemala

Manuela Choc López, 21, is a coffee producer in Guatemala. After turning to beekeeping to diversify her activities, she quickly realized that bees were also helping to improve her coffee crops. "Before having bees, coffee plantations didn't have many flowers," says Manuela. “But now, thanks to the pollination of bees, we are seeing very good results in our coffee plantations and on the trees near the hives. They have helped a lot with our crops.” The value of food production based on the direct contribution of pollinators is estimated at between 235 and 577 billions of dollars. Find out what else bees can do!

 

Wild bee (Nomia sp.) visiting an eggplant flower, Kenya.

Bees pollinate a third of what we eat and play an essential role in preserving the planet's ecosystems. About 84% of crops for human consumption depend on pollinators. Pollination by bees, for example, not only makes it possible to obtain more fruit, berries or seeds, but also to improve the quality of products. Discover 7 fruits and vegetables - that are surely already a part of your daily life - which particularly depend on pollination by bees. For example, no bees = no strawberries or apples!

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.

 

Beekeeper shows an hive full of bees.

From beekeeping providing new opportunities to the youth of Somaliland and to the young Syrians returning home, to the last beekeepers of San Antonio Tecómitl facing urbanization in Mexico, through the sweet honey of Azerbaijan and William Shakespeare's fascination with bees, discover all the stories that were inspired by these little pollinators!

The music of bees

Flight of the Bumblebees - Composed by Michael Omer