World Bee Day: How are bees integral to global food security?

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, India Published: May 20, 2021, 10:42 PM(IST)

Honey bees Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Bees play a vital role in ecosystems as pollinators of major crops, but their numbers have been falling rapidly due to habitat loss, pollution and pesticides

Dogs are often called man's best friend.  But bees are integral to global food security as well.

Bees play a vital role in ecosystems as pollinators of major crops, but their numbers have been falling rapidly due to habitat loss, pollution and pesticides. 

The United Nations warns that 40 per cent of invertebrate pollinators, in particular bees and butterflies, risk global extinction.

Nearly 90 per cent of the world's wild flowering plant species depend entirely on animal pollination along with more than 75 per cent of world's food crops and 35 per cent of global agricultural land.

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In monetary terms, annual food production worth between $235 to $577 billion relies on pollinators.

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

Human beings would not have known about honey if bees did not exist. An 8,000-year-old cave painting in Spain depicts humans gathering honey. Honey has also been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.

1.5 per cent population of Ukraine depends on bee-keeping. The tradition goes back to the Medieval times and the craft has been handed down from generation to generation. Today, Ukraine is one of Europe's major honey producers.

According to Vadim Yanyuk, a honey hunter in Ukraine, ''It is our historical heritage like one of the oldest handcrafts.''

In Italy, Francesco Capoano has spent his whole life taking care of bees. There are thousands of beekeepers like him who are working tirelessly to ensure that the population of bees does not decline.

The director of Green Island, Claudia Zanfi says "Bees have been on the planet for over a hundred million years, we humans have only been here for 2.5 million years so there is already that difference among us.''

''They have a perfect social organisation, I don't want to go on about this but they are led by women, it is a very interesting organization, society and superorganism, and as human beings we have a lot to learn from them but also regarding how to respect them."

Bees are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times than normal due to human impacts. If this trend continues vegetable crops will be substituted by staple crops resulting in an imbalanced diet.

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