Did you have a cup of coffee today? If so, you can thank a bee.
Crops like coffee, potatoes, broccoli and tomatoes thrive due to pollination by honey bees.
This September, New Zealand celebrates Bee Aware Month, an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of the insect’s critical importance to global food security, as well as the economy, environment and biodiversity.
The education campaign by Apiculture New Zealand calls for citizens to ‘Bee a Hero’ and educate themselves on the impact of pesticides and climate change on decreasing bee populations. A range of competitions and giveaways are available for those who grow bee-friendly plants in their gardens and use alternative, bee-friendly pest control methods.
Honey bees are the most vital pollinating agent in the world.
The insects help to pollinate the vast majority of the earth’s wild plants and around 35% of the world's food crop production, which is a crucial step in the plant and crop reproduction process. A lack of bees means a limited supply of food crops.
According to Apiculture New Zealand CEO Karin Kos, Kiwis don’t know enough about the insect’s influence.
"We want to lift awareness of the critical importance of bees to New Zealand’s environment, food chain and economy, and teach Kiwis some simple actions that everyone can take to improve bee health,” Kos said. “Mowing your lawns less often is one really simple thing that can make a difference for bees. Weeds like clover and dandelions are great food for bees.”
Today is World Bee Day! Bees keep our planet growing through pollination and they produce one of our fav foods, honey! Thank the bees by planting bee-friendly plants, spraying safely and eating local honey! Photo: Doug Logan pic.twitter.com/xGB8fgvjsJ— Apiculture NZ (@Apiculture_NZ) May 19, 2020
The number of bees across the world is declining at an alarming rate.
In New Zealand, the overall colony loss rate has increased each year since records began in 2015.
In 2018, an unprecedented 40% of honey bee colonies in the United States died.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a pesticide called neonicotinoid is responsible for “colony collapse disorder,” an increasingly common occurrence where a colony is wiped out. Rising temperatures as a result of climate change are also to blame because extreme heat can alter the signal given off by flowers to bees.
"Bees are under great threat from the combined effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, pesticides use, biodiversity loss and pollution," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said on World Bee Day in May. "The absence of bees and other pollinators would wipe out coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa to name just a few of the crops that rely on pollination.”
Graziano da Silva added: “Countries need to shift to more pollinator-friendly and sustainable food policies and systems."
New Zealand is stepping up — it’s time other countries followed suit.