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:Photo FAO/Greg Beals
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: Celebrating the diversity of bees and beekeeping systems
20 May 2022, 13:00–14:45 CEST
Agenda | Register | Webcast
Beekeeping is a widespread and global activity, with millions of beekeepers depending on bees for their livelihoods and well-being. Together with wild pollinators, bees play a major role in maintaining biodiversity, ensuring the survival and reproduction of many plants, supporting forest regeneration, promoting sustainability and adaptation to climate change, improving the quantity and quality of agricultural productions.
This year FAO will celebrate World Bee Day through a virtual event, under the theme ‘Bee Engaged: Celebrating the diversity of bees and beekeeping systems’
The event featuring bee and pollinator experts and practitioners from across the world will open with a video message by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. The event will raise awareness on the importance of the wide variety of bees and sustainable beekeeping systems, the threats and challenges they face and their contribution to livelihoods and food systems.
The event will be available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian languages.
Do you know all the different pollinators?
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?
- 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.
Why do we need pollinators?
Pollinators allow many plants, including many food crops, to reproduce. Indeed, the food that we eat, such as fruits and vegetables, directly relies on pollinators. A world without pollinators would equal a world without food diversity – no blueberries, coffee, chocolate, cucumbers and so much more. They also serve as sentinels for emergent environmental risks, signaling the health of local ecosystems.
Pollination, a pillar of our ecosystems
Pollinators not only help ensure the abundance of fruits, nuts, and seeds, but also their variety and quality, which is crucial for human nutrition. Beyond food, pollinators also contribute directly to medicines, biofuels, fibers like cotton and linen, and construction materials.
The vast majority of flowering plant species only produce seeds if animal pollinators move pollen from the anthers to the stigmas of their flowers. Without this service, many interconnected species and processes functioning within the ecosystem would collapse.
Pollination is therefore a keystone process, in both human managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems. It is critical for food production and human livelihoods and directly links wild ecosystems with agricultural production systems
Learn more about the link between pollinators and the food we eat!
Bees, the ambassadors of pollinators
Most of the 25,000 to 30,000 species of bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) are effective pollinators, and together with moths, flies, wasps, beetles, and butterflies, they make up the majority of pollinating species. But the diversity of pollinators and pollination systems is striking.
Indeed, there are also vertebrate pollinators, including bats, non-flying mammals (such as several species of monkey, rodents, lemur, tree squirrels, olingo, and kinkajou) and birds (hummingbirds, sunbirds, honeycreepers and some parrot species).
Current understanding of the pollination process shows that, while specific relationships exist between plants and their pollinators, healthy pollination services are best ensured by an abundance and diversity of pollinators.
No pollinators, no SDGs!
The diversity of pollinators have a direct and positive impact on crop yields. Bees and other pollinating insects are, in fact, improving the food production of 2 billion small farmers worldwide, helping to ensure food security for the world’s population. Honey hunting of wild bee colonies also remains an important part of the livelihoods of forest-dependent peoples in many developing countries. Conversely, the decline of these species has many consequences on our ecosystems and on the quality and quantities of food crops, with a direct consequence of an imbalance in diets and a depletion of natural resources, as well as an impoverishment of populations. The health and even the lives of billions of people will be affected and, therefore, many sustainable development goals (SDGs), such as the one aiming at ending world hunger and the one aiming at preserving and restoring terrestrial ecosystems, will no longer be attainable.
Discover the goal that aims to preserve our ecosystems!
Over 80% of human food is supplied by plants. The loss of pollinators would, therefore, lead to an exponential loss of biodiversity, endangering our ecosystems and our diet.
Adapting to changing climates
A diverse assemblage of pollinators, with different traits and responses to ambient conditions, is also one of the best ways to minimize risks due to climate change. Their diversity ensures that there are effective pollinators not just for current conditions, but for future conditions, as well. As a result of biodiversity, resilience can therefore be built in agro-ecosystems.