HomeProgressYoung people at the center of World Bee Day

Young people at the center of World Bee Day

World Bee Day, May 20, 2024, is dedicated to young people precisely because their help and mutual cooperation are precious for the protection of these important pollinating insects. FAO has published a guide to promote the involvement of young people, and not only, in these initiatives. (1)

1) The problems of pollinators

1.1) Protection of pollinators

World Bee Day was established as a measure for the protection of these important pollinating insects (genus Apis), safeguarding biodiversity and food production. Honey bees (i.e. Apis mellifera, Am ligustica, Am carnica, Am scutellata) are the species of greatest interest due to their economic potential, but other species must also be adequately protected, together with non-Apis insects. (2)

Numerous species are at risk at national and European level, and measures to mitigate risks and promote the conservation of species in all environments, including urban ones, are necessary.

The Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen, it has disregarded the repeated requests of European citizens and has limited itself to promoting and reviewing initiatives already developed without any particular tangible results. So much so that the European Parliament also moved with a resolution to encourage the Commission to be more concrete from this point of view. (3)

1.2) Inappropriate authorizations of pesticides

The absence of suitable policy implementations is accompanied by contradictions such as lack of bans on pesticides and other products harmful to bees, as well as continuous authorizations that do not take into account the adverse effects that these products can have on these insects.

Cypermethrin is an emblematic example. The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe association had to force itself to bring the appeal against the renewal of the authorization before the European Court of Justice (following an initial defeat) (4). PAN Europe contests the poor assessment of the EFSA opinion on cypermethrin, which identified several gaps in the available data, and some concerns for bees, the presence of metabolites in pollen and nectar, and health problems for consumers, identified even more recently with potential for acute and chronic risks. (5,6)

The main studies on the effects of pesticides are aimed at the Apis genus, while the effects on non-Apis species are still in their infancy. However, the effects observed for honey bees can actually translate in a very similar way also for other insect species, especially regarding the effects of interaction with plants, in combination with the contact of mixtures of different formulations, and the synergy due to other stress factors (e.g. climate change, parasites, nutritional deficiencies). (7)

WORLD BEE DAY 2024 FAO
Fig. 1. Exposure to pesticides from different pollen sources (i.e. crops, herbaceous and tree species) in non-Apis species (source: Raine & Rundlöf, 2024)

1.3) Consequences of climate change

A study has developed several models to assess the future effects of climate change on several crucial pollinators, including bees. (8) The results are not comforting, and it is predicted that 65% of bees (out of a total of 1.365 species) will see a strong reduction in average distribution in 2070. In Europe this reduction is estimated to be 56%, while in some cases, such as North America, the distribution could even increase, due to the remaining 35% of the bees analyzed. Obviously, various uncertainties must be taken into account, such as the impossibility of predicting future climate changes and the adoption of innovations capable of counteracting such changes.

Habitat alteration, considered as the main influencing factor due to the increase in temperatures, can be both positive and negative. For example, previously inhospitable scenarios could become suitable for the survival of some bees, but the biological cycles of plants could instead be compromised and not follow those of the bees themselves, limiting the availability of pollen and nectar. Similar reasoning can be carried out for pathogens and diseases.

FIG.2 WORLD BEE DAY FAO FORECAST

IMG3 WORLD BEE DAY FORECAST
Fig. 2 and 3. Comparison of the climate suitability of Apis mellifera in North America, Africa and Asia in the present and future (2070). Light colors indicate higher climate suitability, while darker colors indicate lower suitability (source: Rahimi et al., 2024)

2) Young people for pollinators

Young people they are considered as the future guardians of bees and beekeeping, and for this reason FAO aims to raise awareness of this segment of the population, and to involve them in educational initiatives and various events, in which policy makers, teachers, beekeepers and many other parties can also participate interested in the topic of bees and pollinators.

Their involvement can be promoted in several ways:

– Promoting World Bee Day in cities or towns, even beyond May 20, and it is possible to involve local institutions or businesses to carry out communication activities for this day;

– Promoting initiatives in kindergartens and schools, to carry out teaching and practical activities for the defense of pollinators and respect for health and the environment;

– Tasting different types of honey – obtained according to equity, as GHO claims, Global Honey Organization – to understand the role that honey bees play directly in food production;

– Organizing specific events in physical or remote form, through interactive discussions and workshops;

– Using parks and gardens to indicate the importance that pollinators have for their presence and survival.

3) Strategies to help bees

There are 5 strategies that can be implemented by young people (and not) to help bees and the beekeeping sector remain alive and thriving. They are:

1) Plant bee-attractive gardens, using attractive native species, along with crops that can provide bee nutrition, and taking care to have sufficient flowering timing throughout the year;

2) Create bee-proof environments, building or placing houses or shelters for solitary bees, or creating hedges or leaving bare ground areas for the bees that nest there;

3) Support local beekeepers, buying honey and other products from them and learning good beekeeping practices and beekeeping itself;

4) Avoid the use of chemical substances potentially harmful to bees, reducing or changing pesticides and fertilizers, and choosing organic and sustainable products;

5) Learn about bee species, exploring and discovering the bees present in the area, and understanding how they live and survive in the environment.

4) Conclusions

Bees and various pollinators are still subject to various risks to their safety and survival. Despite this, solutions to improve these adversities do not yet appear to be the Commission's priority.

It is up to ordinary citizens, and future generations, to be an active part of protection actions to prevent time and external threats from causing a drastic reduction that would lead to irreversible consequences for nature and all living beings.

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Footnotes

(1) FAO (2024) Bee engaged with youth – Get involved. World Bee Day – 20 May 2024. https://openknowledge.fao.org/handle/20.500.14283/cd0325en

(2) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. World Bee Day, world bee day. No eligible policy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Revised Pollinator Initiative – a new deal for pollinators. European Parliament resolution of 23 November 2023 on the revised Pollinators Initiative – A new deal for pollinators (2023/2720(RSP)). https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2023-0441_IT.pdf

(4) Alessandra Mei. Stop the insecticide cypermethrin. Pan Europe appeals to the Court of Justice. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

PAN Europe. First ever case against pesticide permit in highest EU Court. 7.5.24. https://www.pan-europe.info/blog/first-ever-case-against-pesticide-permit-highest-eu-court

(5) EFSA (2018) Peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance cypermethrin. EFSA Journal 16(8):5402, https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2018.5402

(6) EFSA (2023) Review of the existing maximum residue levels for cypermethrins according to Article 12 of Regulation (EC) No 396/2005. EFSA Journal 21(3):7800, https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2023.7800

(7) Raine NE & Rundlöf M. (2024) Pesticide Exposure and Effects on Non-Apis Bees. Annual Review of Entomology 69:551-576, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-040323-020625

(8) Rahimi E. et al. (2024) Global Trends in Climate Suitability of Bees: Ups and Downs in a Warming World. Insects 15(2):127, https://doi.org/10.3390/insects15020127

Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

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