For us at the National Honey Board, World Bee Day is every day. But today, we recognize and celebrate the hard work of our beekeepers and bees and the important impact they have on the world’s ecosystem.
World Bee Day is celebrated on May 20th each year, coinciding with the birthday of Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping, who was born in 1734. During his time, he pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work hard while being self-sufficient creatures.
The United Nations celebrated World Bee Day for the first time in 2018 after famous modern-day beekeeper, Peter Kozmus, petitioned the United Nations to declare May 20th a global day for bees. Today, World Bee Day is an opportunity for the global public to focus on the importance of preserving honey bees and other pollinators.
Did you know that more than 75% of the world’s food crops rely on pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, bats, beetles, and moths?
Without bees, we wouldn’t have the nutritious foods we enjoy and rely on. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, bees play an essential role in keeping both the planet and its people nourished.
While the United States has been familiar with beekeeping practices for years, other countries have more recently been introduced to the craft. Bees and beekeeping have the power to do so much more than just making delicious honey. They can transform and refresh the lives of people in entire communities as seen in the stories of these three regions.
The Barro Vermelho community, located in North East Brazil, descended from enslaved people. For them, beekeeping is about more than money, it’s about freedom. According to The Ecologist, they are using beekeeping to help regenerate the natural world, increase bee populations, and simultaneously create a better life for people who live there.
These bees have reinvigorated the entire community by providing the community with jobs, restoring the forest, and teaching about sustainability practices. Brazil is one of the only sources of organic honey, and it is imported into America for consumers to enjoy.
According to BBC, there is much untapped potential of the honey bee across the continent:
"Many African countries have perfect conditions for commercial bee farming because they do not have harsh winters. There are virgin, lush territories where a profitable honey industry could flourish through proper training and access to market."
"When you add that honey money to pollination services, you have an industry with a solid incentive to protect the habitats required by bees."
Mike Allsopp, a honey bee specialist at South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council said, “Some 80% of indigenous flowering plants in Africa benefit from honey bee pollination, and approximately one-third of all food produced is the result of commercial honey bee pollination.” In Kenya, for example, many young people are looking for alternatives to livestock farming, and there’s high demand for honey where prices are similar to those in Europe and beekeepers can contribute to the economy.
Forbes shares the story of how the Savannah Bee Company brought 12 boxes of bees to the Bahamas to begin efforts to promote pollination and foster a cottage honey industry. Projects like The Bee Cause Project are aimed at providing educational materials to grow the number of bee advocates around the world.
As part of the project, hive boxes were installed to teach about beekeeping practices. At the time, there were no bees on the island. The hives are thriving under the care of 15 beekeepers, and a local brand of honey is now available for sale on the island.
On World Bee Day, we continue to celebrate the hard work of beekeepers and bees, and we raise awareness of the importance of bees. By spreading awareness about how we can better support the world’s bees, we can help grow the beekeeping profession around the world and watch it transform both the natural world and economies.