Build Back Better for Bees

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Credit: Philip J Lymbery

Today is World Bee Day – a time to focus on the incredible and unique contribution these tiny insects make to keep our world healthy. Bees are among the hardest working creatures on the planet, benefiting people, plants and the environment. By carrying pollen from one flower to another, bees and other pollinators support the production of many fruits, nuts and seeds.

Put simply, their role is vital as three out of four crops across the globe that produce fruits or seeds for human consumption rely at least in part on pollinators.

Yet, all around the world, bees are disappearing. Out of 24 types of bumble bee in the UK, two species have already gone extinct in the last 70 years. Six are considered seriously endangered and half the rest are at risk. The British Beekeepers Association fears the UK could lose all its bees within the next decade, and it’s the same in other parts of the world.

Reasons for the collapse of bee populations, include agricultural intensification with its use of chemicals, including neonicotinoids and habitat loss.

I saw for myself in California that the wild bees have all but gone.  Central Valley’s vast almond orchards of 60 million trees are now pollinated by some 40 billion industrially reared bees, drafted into the state every year on the back of 3,000 trucks at the cost of $250 million every year.  Here in the Sunshine State, where 4 out of every 5 almonds are produced globally, hives are placed among the crops for six weeks; the bees do their thing before being hastily scooped up and taken off to the next eco-stricken state. 

You couldn’t make it up! It seems that humankind is incapable of recognising the wonder of Nature and prefers instead to find solutions to problems that we have created.

This year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is organising a virtual event on 20 May 2021 under the theme “Bee engaged – Build Back Better for Bees”.

The event will call for global cooperation and solidarity to counter the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to food security and agricultural livelihoods alongside prioritising environmental regeneration and pollinator protection.

Nature-Friendly Farming

Mark and Paul Hayward’s farm at Dingley Dell | Credit: Mark Hayward

It’s not difficult to help bees.  Basically, we must start producing food in harmony with nature. That means reducing our reliance on animals for food, farming in a more nature-friendly way and setting aside more land for nature so that we can protect and restore biodiversity – the variety of plants and wildlife on our planet that keep it healthy.

I’ve visited Dingley Dell in Suffolk, where Mark and Paul Hayward have sown 33 hectares (that’s the equivalent of 83 football pitches) of nectar-rich plants around their farm.  The wildflower mixes, which include Phacelia, Clover and Mallow are planted in blocks between the rows of pig arcs and in the fields.

Last Summer, a big bee count under the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS), revealed there were around 1,186,300 bumblebees on the brothers’ farm – and their incredible feat attracted praise from environmental groups.

“This was our target when we started – to grow enough nectar to feed a million bees on a single day,” said third generation farmer Mark.  The brothers are calling on more farmers to follow their example.

Today, World Bee Day provides an opportunity for all of us – whether we work for governments, organisations, or civil society, or are concerned citizens – to promote actions that will protect and enhance pollinators and their habitats, improve their abundance and diversity, and support the sustainable development of beekeeping.

You can make a difference by supporting the United Nations Food Systems Summit this year. Please consider becoming a Food Systems Hero to add your voice and help make a difference to support, restore and enhance the role of pollinators.

To find out more about the importance of bees, visit the World Bee Day website at

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