Bees are apex pollinators, and along with other animals such as butterflies, birds and beetles, are responsible for pollinating around 70 percent of all food.
To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the United Nations created World Bee Day, commemorated annually on May 20.
Without bees, we would not have crops such as apples, melons and broccoli. Some fruit, such as blueberries and cherries, are almost entirely dependent on pollination by honey bees.
In addition, should bees no longer pollinate crops such as alfalfa and other grains used to feed cattle, meat and dairy production would significantly decrease.
Bee populations are under stress across the globe, with declines in colonies reported in Europe, Northern America, Asia and Africa, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
The northern hemisphere has experienced an estimated 45 percent decrease in bee populations due to issues of monocrops, climate change and pesticide use. While South African populations have not decreased this drastically, local bees still face the challenge of habitat degradation.
The best way to help local honey bees, is to give them alternative habitats in our urban setting:
- Create a bee friendly space – even a window container or potted plants will do.
- Make use of ecological pesticides that will not harm pollinators.
- Plant a bee friendly garden, with plants that attract pollinators such as basil, sage, thyme, lavender, watermelons, cucumbers and pumpkin.
- Use indigenous trees that will offer bees a snack, such as African teak, African Wattle and Apple leaf.
- Keep a shallow water source, such as a bird bath or a waterfall, in your garden for bees.