Few consider bees when taking that bite of delicious food. Despite the fact that they are invisible to most, the vast majority of land-based foods consumed by humans on the planet owe their existence to bees. Whether they are domestic or wild, bees are vital members of the community of those who labour to enable us all to eat.
Humans benefit from bees’ efforts to secure their own needs through collecting pollen, caring for their young, protecting their queen, and perpetuating their colonies. From canola to almonds, blueberries to beans, flowering food plants rely on bees and other pollinators. Honey, royal jelly, and bee pollen are also enjoyed around the world, often in combination with the very crops that were pollinated by bees.
Despite how very vital they are to the world’s food supply, bees are under threat from the loss of habitat. Their well-being is also undermined when their sole food source on vast landscapes is limited to one or two crops. Just like all of us, bees’ well-being is linked to a diverse diet. Insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are harmful to bees; more and more jurisdictions are banning their use in an attempt to protect bees. Bees are also at risk from the increasing weather events associated with climate change, from mites that infest their hives and kill off their members, and from challenging winters that can destroy entire hives.
World Bee Day has been recognized by the United Nations since 2018, at the urging of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association. In the global north, May is the month when bee hives are waking up and food sources are becoming available to bees. In the global south, May is honey harvest time at the end of the growing season. No matter where we live on the planet, recognizing how important it is to protect bees and other pollinators is not just about promoting biodiversity, it is about our own food security.