In 2009 a small group of beekeepers in USA petitioned the US Department of Agriculture to start a day honouring the honey bees and all the hard work they do to ensure we get to eat. That request was accepted and August 22nd was declared the National Honey Bee Day. In 2014 Slovenia, a nation of beekeepers, petitioned the UN to do the same for all bees. The latter complied in 2017 and declared 20th May, the birthday of pioneering beekeeper Anton Jansa, to be World Bee Day. Canada celebrates May 29th as the Day of the Honey Bee. In USA some organizations took to celebrating the 3rd Saturday of August, instead of 22nd August, as National Honey Bee Day. Now some Americans celebrate our little winged friends on the third Saturday of the month and the others on 22nd August.
All this may to be an awful lot of days dedicated to celebrating a critter. But when it comes to the bee, there’s no such thing. These little creatures are one of our biggest allies in the fight against climate change. They are crucial to ensuring food security, pollinating three quarters of plants responsible for 90 percent of the world’s food.
Well, all that’s great, but what’s that got to do with you? You liked bee cartoons and nursery rhymes as a child, love slurping on honey and find the metaphor for hardworking bees inspirational to your own work ethic. But since you’re not a farmer or a beekeeper, you don’t see how you can help out with the bees severely plummeting population.
And they are plummeting. The state of bees is quite worrisome, a fact that should bother humans because every third spoonful of food comes to us courtesy of bees. The need for pollinators is on the rise just as their numbers are on the decline. In 2004 a mass disappearance of bees occurred in California. Since then these losses have been occurring more frequently. In 2017 USA’s bee loss amounted to 33 percent.
Europe is also struggling with preserving its bee population. In 2016, 12 percent of its bee colonies perished. Climate change, urbanisation, pesticides, global trade in low quality honey and scary new pests are just some of the reasons bees are dying out. Combatting this dangerous slew of threats against the bee requires participation from all of us. What’s more, the ways we can help bees are really easy and fun. It’s something we all can do and will enjoy doing so.
Plant a small garden
Whether you’re lucky enough to have a terrace and/or a backyard or have to make do with a tiny balcony, that’s all the space you need to plant a little bee sanctuary. If large farms and wild forests are what spring to your mind when you think of bee habitats, think again. Urban ecology depends on backyard pollinators to do their jobs. That can only happen if bees can find patches of greenery and floral hideouts amidst the concrete jungle.
Plant native and biodiverse flowers as these are the richest in pollen and nectar. Avoid hybrid species. As your house blooms with the fragrance of these beauties, the bees will find joy among them along with you. As you work in the garden, immerse your hands in dirt and find peaceful meditative moments working with nature, the bees will feast on the nectar and find refuge in the space you’ve created for them. It’s extremely important to opt for natural herbicides over synthetic pesticides and chemicals.
Buy honey from certified sustainable beekeeping businesses
There’s a huge difference between ethically and sustainably produced honey and that which is not. One works to safeguard bees and the other destroys them. Ethically produced honey empowers marginalised farmers, increases green cover by promoting agroforestry and implements sustainable methods of honey production that doesn’t deprive the bees of the fruits of their hard labour.
In industrialised honey productions, reaping honey is prioritised over health of bees and hives. This will be cheaper than buying certified sustainable honey, but at what cost? Healthy bees equal healthy ecosystem and industrial honey the opposite. In fact, as discussed above, the global trade in low quality honey is a principle factor in wiping out bee population.
So google social enterprises producing honey sustainably near you and treat yourself to a jar of golden nectar that will taste a million times better than the store bought version anyway.
Shop organic whenever you can
It’s a privilege to be able to shop local, seasonal and organic produce. If it is not within your means currently, that’s absolutely fine. But if you’re in a position to afford it, you should opt for it without any hesitation. Pesticides are hazardous for bees. In the first three months of 2019, 500 million bees died in Brazil, thanks to rampant unchecked pesticide use. Carlos Alberto Bastos, president of the Apiculturist Association of Brazil’s Federal District, said that the death of so many bees, “is a sign that we’re being poisoned.”
By economically supporting organic farming, we can contribute to ensuring a healthy playground for bees to flourish in, help topsoil recover from decades of degradation and nourish our bodies in the best way possible.
Albert Einstein once said that if bees disappeared off the face of the earth, humans would have four years to live. We’re fast approaching the dystopia where bees are disappearing off the face of the earth in alarming numbers. Fortunately, we have all the tools we need to avert this man-made crisis. The three points listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. Voting with our wallets is the best thing we can do if that’s all we can do. But if you are buzzed up about doing more, then the internet is your oyster. From signing petitions, lobbying your government and taking up beekeeping as a hobby (it’s really easy), we heartily encourage you to investigate some options.