when it comes to the United Nations, which declared this date to be international World Bee Day in December 2017 . Reason enough to include this global bee day of action on the occasion of its first edition in 2018 in the calendar of curious holidays from all over the world and to shed light on its history with the following lines. So why do we celebrate the bees on this date in May?
Who started World Bee Day?
Even if today’s World Bee Day is officially under the auspices of the UN, the original initiative goes back to a joint petition by the Slovenian Beekeeping Association (Slovene Čebelarska zveza Slovenije) and the Slovenian state government in 2014. As far as I can see, our Eastern European neighbors celebrated May 20th a few years earlier as the national day of honor for bees (see also the list of further links below). It should be noted in this context that such national or regional bee days can be found in many countries. An example is made here to the US Day of the Honeybee (National Honey Bee Day) Referenced on the third Saturday in August.
In September 2015, these efforts received support from the world’s largest beekeeping and beekeeping organization, Apimodia – International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations. In the years that followed, this coalition, headed by the Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture, massively promoted the issue of bee protection and the creation of a global day of action to protect insects, which play a central role in the pollination of plants and in the production of honey.
On November 17, 2017, the United Nations Economic Committee took up the motion for the resolution of a World Bee Day, which was then unanimously approved by all 115 member states on December 20 by the UN General Assembly in New York as A / C.2 / 72 / L .32 was officially adopted. World Bee Day will therefore take place for the first time on May 20, 2018 and will also be celebrated in Germany. The driving force here is, among others, the German Beekeeping Association (see also the press release on World Bee Day linked below).
Why is World Bee Day on May 20th?
Against this background, it is not surprising that – in contrast to many other curious holidays and action days – there is a very specific reason for the choice of the date. And in the case of World Bee Day, there is a twofold argument:
- On the one hand, May 20th is the birthday of the Slovenian Anton Janša (1734-1773), who is considered the pioneer of modern beekeeping and beekeeping worldwide (see also the other articles in the calendar of curious birthdays ). Janša made a name for himself primarily through his work as master beekeeper and lecturer at the school for the promotion of beekeeping at the imperial court of Maria Theresa. In the course of this employment, the Slovenian not only published numerous monographs on the subject of beekeeping but also invented the so-called frame mode for beekeeping in beekeeping. In short, modern beekeeping would hardly exist without Anton Janša.
- On the other hand, May 20th is also one of the most important dates of the bee year in the northern hemisphere. Because while beekeepers bring in their honey harvest in the southern hemisphere, the newly hatched queens are mated in our latitudes. This also explains why many swarming bee colonies can be found in the period from mid-May onwards because in the course of this mating process, the old queen and part of her colony leave the beehive to settle elsewhere.
Thus, May 20th appears to be an almost perfect choice for World Bee Day. Whether it but also a substantive connection to today also committed in Germany Fremdworttag, the US Pluck strawberries tag (National Pick Strawberries Day) or the international day of weights and measures are (Weights and Measures Day), I could not find out in the course of the research for the present article.
Goals and intention: With the World Bee Day against the death of bees
As a rule, such environmental action days pursue a very specific goal or are justified by a very serious background. This is also the case with today’s World Bee Day, with which the UN General Assembly wants to draw attention to the acute danger to honey and wild bees and their habitat. The insects play a central role in the pollination of plants and thus also play an important role from the point of view of the global nutritional problem. In short, without bees and humans face a massive problem.
The reasons for the threat to insects may be varied, but it is now empirically proven that the use of pesticides, pesticides and fertilizers as well as the excessive spread of monocultures in agriculture play a large part in the current bee deaths. Accordingly, World Bee Day tries above all to create public awareness of this problem. Scientists and beekeepers suspect the following reasons as the main causes of bee mortality.
The parasitic threat posed by the varroa mite to the honey bee
An essential factor is the decreasing resilience of bee colonies to viruses and parasites such as the Varroa mite (Latin: Varroa destructor) from Asia. While the Asian honey bees (lat. Apis cerana) were able to develop a certain resistance to the parasite, the honey bees (lat. Apis mellifera), which are widespread in Europe, Africa and America, are particularly susceptible.
Bee researchers and beekeepers see the main reason for the high susceptibility in the overbreeding of honey bees, which were primarily geared towards simple keeping and the production of honey. An example of this is the mass marketing of bee colonies for almond blossom in the US state of California. Despite the large numbers, these bee colonies lack the resistance and adaptability to such a threat.
This 1-2 millimeter parasite attacks adult workers and sucks out their blood or lays its eggs in the brood of honeybees. Infested bee larvae are born crippled, adult honey bees are severely weakened by the mite infestation. Although Varroa does not kill the bee colony itself, the parasite weakens the immune system of the infected colony so much that it becomes significantly more susceptible to virus and fungal infections. These are then the real reason for the bee deaths.
To make matters worse, the mite first appeared outside of Asia in the late 1960s, but has now spread to almost all continents and is fought in many places with chemical agents that then also damage the bee colonies.
Neonicotinoids: Pesticides as the cause of bee deaths
Even if these diseases are of natural origin, the researchers found that human influence plays a greater role than has long been assumed. Because the agricultural monocultures of the fields and factory farming using antibiotics have massively weakened the resistance of wild and honey bees in the course of complex ecological interactions.
Incidentally, this also applies to agriculture in Germany, which in this context is allowed to take up the cause of plowing up grassland – especially for corn cultivation – and the use of pesticides in addition to climate-damaging clearing. These not only destroy the natural habitat of the wild bees, but also attack their nervous system.
In a study from 2013/2014, researchers at the Free University of Berlin under the direction of the neurobiologist Randolf Menzel were able to prove that synthetically produced insecticides with the substances clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, so-called neonicotinoids, which are used to maximize yield, have an extremely negative effect the bee colonies and other pollinating insects have in these areas. These neonicotinoids are currently prohibited by the decision of the EU committee of April 27, 2018.
But there is another problem with chemistry. Like all insects, honey bees and wild bees also absorb numerous poisons from their environment. Scientists speak of the so-called cocktail effect here. While individual active ingredients have only a minor effect on their own, the risk increases when several chemicals are combined. So far, however, this factor has played almost no role in the assessment of chemicals by government authorities and the consequences for insect populations are correspondingly devastating.
The cultivation of genetically modified plants as the cause of bee deaths?
In contrast to the two previously mentioned factors, research with regard to the influence of genetically modified plants is currently undecided or a final confirmation is still pending. A number of studies have suspected GM maize in particular to have an impact on bee mortality. However, other research results could not confirm this assumption.
For World Bee Day: Bee-friendly plants for the garden and balcony
Of course, not everyone can become a beekeeper and beekeeper, but something can still be done to protect bees on a small scale. Ever since, by doing without chemical pesticides in your own garden or by setting up insect hotels, wild bees and other useful insects have found a place to nest.
The greatest contribution can be made by choosing the right flowers and plants. So it is ideal for the bees to find flowering plants from spring to autumn. Because especially at the beginning and at the end of the season there is often a lack of pollen and nectar plants – and not just for the bees. However, you should keep in mind when bees-friendly plants that not all plants are suitable for this purpose.
As a rule of thumb you can remember that a) monocultures are to be avoided and b) plants with double flowers, but also popular summer flowers such as geraniums and petunias are not suitable for the bees. Due to their low pollen and nectar content, they are actually useless for honey bees and the like. In contrast, the following flowers are much more suitable for the balcony:
- Particularly bee-friendly balcony plants are long-flowering and perennial plants such as the bush mallow, the high stonecrop, the red coneflower or the cranesbill.
- Annual summer flowers such as scented stone rich, fan flower, lavender, flour sage, snowflake flower, vanilla flower and zinnia.
- Alternatively or in addition, balcony boxes or flower pots can also be planted with regional wildflower mixtures, nasturtiums or spiced marigolds. These have the advantage that you can sow the seeds yourself and do not have to buy/haul ready-made plants. In the meantime, you can also buy suitable bee-friendly seed mixtures (see also the list of further links below).
- Those who plant herbs are also making a good choice, because lemon balm, kitchen sage, thyme and mountain savory not only refine our dishes but also provide nourishment for numerous insects.
In this sense: Happy Birthday Anton Janša and save the bees.