As a result of today’s growing urbanisation, honeybee populations are at stake together with over 75% of the world’s crops that rely on their pollination services, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Urban landscapes as well as intensive agricultural practices with the use of detrimental pesticides have, and will continue to drastically reduce wildflower diversity, a key factor in bee survival and reproduction. Along with their ecological importance, honeybee pollination services are worth up to $600 billion a year. Protecting them means protecting our own health and wellbeing.

Studies have recently revealed that habitat modification only favours the survival of certain exotic and solitary species whilst reducing the numbers of eusocial groups, including the honeybees. The concerning data has driven some big cities to recreate areas of suitable habitat for the honeybees, in the desperate attempt of boosting their population numbers. A trend initiated in 2015 by Norway’s capital, Oslo, with several green roofs built as a safe passage for the bees throughout the city. Similarly, a 7 mile ‘bee corridor’ was planted in North London in 2019 with a wide variety of selected wildflowers to increase the chances of attracting these pollinators. More recently, a 3.5 km ‘bee highway’ was created in Milan, Italy, with over 1 million flowering plants and 3000 herbaceous species. These efforts are examples that could and should be replicated in cities across the world in light of the threats the honeybees face.

We as individuals can also make our own smaller but significant contributions to saving honeybees. The bee conservancy gives several suggestions including planting a bee garden where a small space is left as it is to favour the growth of wildflowers or enriching it with flowers abundant in pollen and nectar. Other bee-friendly measures include, using natural solutions as opposed to chemical pesticides, creating a ‘bee bath’ to allow them to rehydrate after foraging or building a bee house. London’s Natural History Museum provides detailed instructions (https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-to-make-bee-hotel.html) on creating your own ‘bee hotel’ that could potentially host up to 10 bee species!

Our lives are closely interconnected with the survival and activity of bees, protecting them is essential to restore our relationship with nature.

Sources:

BBC News, ‘Bee Corridor’ Planted in London to Boost Insect Numbers, Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-48187846 (accessed August 2021)

FAO (2021), World Bee Day, Available at http://www.fao.org/world-bee-day/en/ (accessed August 2021)

The Bee Conservancy, 10 Ways to Save the Bees, Available at https://thebeeconservancy.org/10-ways-to-save-the-bees/ (accessed August 2021)

The Guardian (2015), Oslo Creates World’s First ‘highway’ to Protect Endangered Bees, Available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/25/oslo-creates-worlds-first-highway-to-protect-endangered-bees (Accessed August 2021)

Wilson, J.C & Jamieson, M.A (2019), The Effects of Urbanization on Bee Communities depends on Floral Resource Availability and Bee Functional Traits, Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31790482/ (accessed August 2021)