We All Depend on the Survival of Bees

A bee drinks nectar of a flower

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. Photo FAO/Greg Beals

18 May 2021 (United Nations)* — 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 : build Back Better for Bees

The fourth observance of World Bee Day will be celebrated – in the midst of a still ongoing pandemic – with a virtual event organized by the FAO on 20 May 2021 under the theme “Bee engaged – Build Back Better for Bees”.

The event will call for global cooperation and solidarity to counter the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to food security and agricultural livelihoods alongside prioritizing environmental regeneration and pollinator protection. It will be an occasion to raise awareness of how everyone can make a difference to support, restore and enhance the role of pollinators.

Join the event on the 20th of May 2021 at 13:00 (CEST) and follow the conversations on social media using the hashtags #WorldBeeDay #Savethebees !

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


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.

Events 2021

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!

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

*SOURCE: United Nations. Go to ORIGINAL.

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