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

It’s not just about honey! Did you know that 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?

World Bee Day was developed to help raise awareness of ways to protect bees and other pollinators around the world.

Human activities such as changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and the use of pesticides, as well as pollution, pests, diseases and climate change, threaten the habitat, health and development of pollinators.

Insect decline

According to a 2019 research paper by Dr Annalie Melin, a postdoctoral research fellow at the interdepartmental Centre for Statistics in Ecology, Environment and Conservation (SEEC) at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Faculty of Science, “South Africa has been recognised globally as a bee diversity hotspot, with close to 1 000 bee species, many of which are endemic to the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo biomes.”

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However, Melin said, more work needs to be done to achieve comprehensive bee inventories in order to accurately gather data on their potential decline and potential loss of species.

Global research in 2019 predicted an “insect Apocalypse” saying that over 40 percent of the insect species may become extinct in the next few decades.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Insects could be extinct in 100 years – and so could we

Western Cape’s plan to save the honey bee in SA

According to the Western Cape government’s website, “more than 50 different crops in South Africa are reliant on the existence and work of the honey bee. The survival of the honey bee and South Africa’s R7 billion a year fruit industry has come under threat.”

To prevent a rapid outbreak of American foulbrood (AFB) disease in bee colonies, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, together with bee associations in the province are working on a plan to protect the bee population in the province. Read the full strategy HERE.

How can we do more to help save the honey bee in South Africa?

Here are the UN’s guidelines on what you can do to help save the bees and contribute towards global and local food security.

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 organisations, organisations and academic and research networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services.

Find out more from the UN’s website HERE.

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