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The importance of bees and other pollinators

Bees entering the beehive

Bees play an important role in maintaining ecological balance. | Author Jošt Gantar

Biodiversity and environmental protection

Bees are integral to the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. They provide one of the most recognisable ecosystem services, i.e. pollination, which is what makes food production possible. By so doing, they protect and maintain ecosystems as well as animal and plant species, and contribute to genetic and biotic diversity.

"Bees reflect what is happening in the environment" – José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization in the period 2012 to 2019

Bees also act as indicators of the state of the environment. Their presence, absence, or quantity lets us know when something is happening with the environment and communicates to us that appropriate action is needed. By observing the development and health of bees, it is possible to ascertain changes in the environment and implement the necessary precautionary measures in time.

Beekeeper with children

Bees provide one of the most important ecosystem services - pollination, which makes food production even possible | Author Oštir Gantar

Food security

In order to be able to feed the world’s growing population we need ever more food, which must be diverse, balanced, and of good quality to ensure the progress and well-being of mankind.

"Eliminating hunger is the responsibility of all of us." – Ban Ki Moon, South Korean diplomat and the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations

Bees are renowned for their role in providing high-quality food (honey, royal jelly, and pollen) and other products used in the healthcare and other sectors (beeswax, propolis, honey bee venom). But the work of bees entails much more!

The greatest contribution of bees and other pollinators is the pollination of nearly three quarters of plants, which produce 90% of the world’s food. A third of the world’s food production depends on bees, i.e. every third spoonful of food depends on pollination.

Sustainable farming and income

Over the past 50 years, the amount of crops that depends on pollinators (i.e. fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and oilseeds) has tripled. Bees play an important role in relation to the scope of agricultural production. Effective pollination increases the amount of agricultural produce, improves the quality thereof, and enhances plants’ resistance to pests.

"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the care for human beings." - Masanobu Fukuoka, Japanese farmer and philosopher

Cultivated plants that depend on pollination are an important source of income to farmers, especially smaller farmers and family-owned farms in developing countries. They provide jobs and income to millions of people. According to the estimates of an international study conducted in 2016 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the annual global production of food that depends directly on pollination was worth from 235 to 577 billion dollars. Furthermore, agricultural plants that require pollination are an important source of jobs and income for farmers, especially small farmers and family-owned farms in developing countries.

The bumblebee and the bee together on the flower

The bumblebee and the bee together on the flower

The protection of bees and other pollinators

In general, in the field of the protection of bees and other pollinators, Slovenia is one of the countries that set an example for many other EU Member States. In addition to celebrating World Bee Day every year at the initiative of our country, the EIP European Innovative Partnership "Fruit Growers for Pollinators and Pollinators for Fruit Growers" project is underway, while the target research project "A diversity of pollinators for reliable food production" has been completed. The implementation of the target research project "Design of the methodology for monitoring wild pollinators in Slovenia" is also underway.

In addition, Slovenia restricted the use of neonicotinoids already in 2008, and the use thereof on crops that may have an impact on bees was finally banned in 2011. The EU Commission adopted a ban on the use of neonicotinoids only in 2018.

The number of bees in Slovenia increased during this time. In addition, a number of pesticides that have killed bees in the past were banned at the EU level in recent years. Slovenia has always taken care to protect bees from pesticides and will certainly continue to follow this principle in the future.

How can I contribute to the conservation of bees and other pollinators?

Anyone can contribute in their own way to the protection and well-being of bees and other pollinators by following small but important steps:

  • Planting melliferous flowers for decorative purposes on balconies, terraces, and gardens.
  • Buying honey and other hive products from your nearest local beekeeper.
  • Raising awareness among children and adolescents as to the importance of bees and expressing your support for beekeepers.
  • At home on your balcony, terrace, or garden, set up your own bee-nesting site, which you can either make by yourself or buy at any home furnishings store.
  • Preserving old meadows – which feature a more diverse array of flowers – and sow nectar-bearing plants.
  • Cutting grass on meadows only after the nectar-bearing plants have finished blooming.
  • Offer suitable farming locations for the temporary or permanent settlement of bees so that they have suitable pasture; as a consequence, they will pollinate our plants, which will thereby bear more fruit.
  • If absolutely necessary, use pesticides that do not harm bees and only spray them in windless weather, either early in the morning or late at night, when bees withdraw from blossoms.
  • Mulch blooming plants in orchards and vineyards before spraying them with pesticides so that they do not attract bees after being sprayed.