Happy World Bee Day!
To raise awareness about pollinators ad the threats faced by them, the United National General Assembly adopted May 20 as World Bee Day in 2017, inviting all member states and civil society to celebrate and raise awareness about bees and other pollinators. The UN notes that “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.”
The 2017 declaration establishing World Bee Day recognized the fundamental contribution bees and other pollinators make regarding sustainable food production which is linked to many aspects of human health, livelihood, and the elimination of poverty.
World Bee Day is also intended to express concern about the range of human activities endangering many pollinators worldwide including the intensive agricultural practices that rely on the use of pesticides, the increasing amounts of pollution, and the extensive changes in land use that alter not only the availability of flowers but also fragment the ecosystem.
The declaration further recognizes “the contribution of the ecosystem services provided by bees and other pollinators to ecosystem health by safeguarding the state of biodiversity, species and genetic diversity.”
This year World Bee Day focuses on the “good practices adopted by beekeepers to support their livelihoods and deliver good quality products.”
The United Nations notes, “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.”
There will be a ceremonial celebration of beekeeping today that will be broadcast on YouTube.
To celebrate World Bee Day, we did a round-up of some bee news from around the world.
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There was some very good news from Florida last month. The “ultra-rare” metallic blue calamintha bee was re-discovered on the Lake Wales Ridge by a post-doctoral researcher with Florida Museum of Natural History.
First described in 2011, scientists had been unsure if the bee still existed. But Chase Kimmel, who re-discovered the blue calamintha, said in a press release, “I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting.”
Kimmel had been living at the Archbold Biological Station on the Ridge that hosts numerous species found nowhere else. The bee is highly specialized depending on a threatened plant called Ashe’s calamint also found only in this region. The Lake Wales Ridge is “a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot and one of the nation’s fastest-disappearing ecosystems, according to a 2015 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report.”
Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan now lists the metallic blue bee, whose scientific name is Osmia calaminthae, as a “species of greatest conservation need” and the project on which Kimmel assists that is funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission “could help determine whether it qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act.”
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Ikea’s research and design Space10 project is launching an initiative for World Bee Day focused on protecting the global solitary bee population. They are introducing a Bee Home and inviting everyone to join the conversation about it.
In a partnership with European design studio Bakken & Bæck, and designer Tanita Klein, Space10 has released a free design so everyone can make their own customized Bee Home.
Bee Homes are not beehives, however. Instead, this is a DIY habitat for solitary bees that don’t store honey or make wax.
Space10 Journal notes that “solitary bees are great pollinators: a single solitary bee could provide as much pollination as 120 honeybees.”
They added, “For millions of years, they have helped maintain biodiversity and kept our planet healthy. But, due to human impact, we’ve jeopardised their natural habitat…. It’s time we give back to the hard-working, yet easily overlooked, solitary bees.”
The customized bee homes look like a multi-story apartment building. “Solitary bees do not live in complex hives like honey bees. In fact, all they need is small holes to store pollen and lay eggs — and protection from weather and moisture,” writes Space10.
The design files for the Bee Home can be downloaded for free. Once assembled they just need a quiet location in your garden that faces the morning sun. They also provide instructions on maintaining the residence.
Space10 says “Bee Home is an open invitation for everyone to give bees the home they deserve — and to make sure that planet Earth thrives.”
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In other news, honeybees can count.
Research published this week in the Journal of Experimental Biology examined how honeybees choose their forage environment, specifically how honeybees might be able to distinguish between different flower patches to assess the food resources available.
Previous attempts looking at honeybees have demonstrated that they can count landmarks, match quantities, and even use numerical rules such as quantity discrimination and even arithmetic.
Bees are, in fact, are not only surprisingly good with numbers but they are also good at distinguishing patterns. Previous research in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has shown that honeybees can navigate complex shapes to determine which offers more food. In that research, bees were able to learn to discriminate the pattern connected to better resources and did not spontaneously extrapolate the association.
In the new study, researchers examined whether bees could spontaneously make a quantitative determination of flower amounts. They found that bees have developed a sense of “more,” that is honeybees could tell the difference between groups of 2 or more. For example, they can distinguish between 1 vs 5 flowers but not between 4 vs 5 flowers.
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The BBC reported that the lockdown from COVID-19 has resulted in a reduction of air pollution which has increased the strength and persistence of floral scents in the environment. Professor of evolutionary ecology at Royal Holloway, University of London, Dr. Mark Brown said, “In a world with less air pollution, bees can make shorter and more profitable ‘shopping trips,’ and this may help them rear more young.”
But with traffic down and speeding down, more pollinators are crossing our roads safely as well. This is all good news for the bees.
Gill Perkins, chief executive of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, hopes we remember the lesson reconnecting with nature. We are “beginning to realise how [our] mental health and wellbeing is supported by nature – particularly by bumblebees, which are so iconic and beautiful and buzzy,” she says. “I hope that remains after lockdown.”
Happy World Bee Day!