Celebrate First Annual World Bee Day, May 20

By Diane Almond, Bee City USA Founding Steering Committee Member and Education Advisor

Did you know that after more than three years of efforts by the Republic of Slovenia, the United Nations adopted a resolution declaring May 20 as World Bee Day? Passed unanimously in November 2017, the resolution was co-sponsored by 115 member states including some of the largest: USA, Canada, China, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India and all EU Member States.
Slovenia’s proposal to the UN addressed the need to raise awareness of honey bees’ essential role as pollinators for ecological balance (biodiversity) and food security and to acknowledge the urgent need to address growing worldwide challenges especially sustainable, sufficient food production; adaptation to climate change; and diminishing natural resources such as arable land and water supply.
The Slovenian proposal summarized that over the last 50 years, “…bees have become increasingly endangered, particularly in the areas with intense agriculture. Shrinking habitat along with negative effects of expanding monoculture areas as well as modified and intensified grassland cultivation technology have led to declines in the development of bee colonies. The situation is made worse by new bee diseases and pests, whose impacts are aggravated by deteriorating resistance of bee colonies and impacts of globalization that allows for the transfer of pests over long distances.”

Why Slovenia? On the sunny southern side of the Alps, Slovenia is rich in natural resources with a long and rich history of beekeeping. It is known for its unique beekeeping method, wide varieties of honey, but mostly for its indigenous honey bee, the Carniolan bee, which is protected.
Why May 20? May 20 is the birthday of Anton Jansa, appointed by the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa in 1753 as teacher at the first beekeeping school in Vienna. May 20 in the northern hemisphere marks the full development and reproduction (swarming) of bee colonies; in the southern hemisphere it is autumn when bee products are harvested and the days of honey begin.
Why do we need World Bee Day? The original proposal says it best: “…Contribute significantly to international cooperation in tackling global challenges in terms of global food security, eradication of hunger and malnutrition and preserving the environment from further losses in biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services.”
So, while challenges and issues for communities around the world differ vastly in their intensity and immediacy, the unanimous support for World Bee Day is an indication of how essential, how integral bees are to the future of our planet. And while the Republic of Slovenia’s proposal was largely focused on the importance of the managed honey bee and our food systems, the importance of the other 20,000 bee species, many of which are currently at risk, cannot be overstated.
Consider celebrating all 20,000 bee species on May 20, 2018, and every year. Consider dedicating May 20 to furthering the good work of the Republic of Slovenia.
In the words of Slovenia’s Deputy Prime Minister: “We have a moral obligation to ensure our future generations have a clean and healthy environment and diverse, nutrient-rich foods, for which bees and other pollinators play a vital role….Let World Bee Day unite us and bring the world together.”

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