15 Organizations and Initiatives Helping to Save the Bees
By Leslie Brooks
More than 75 percent of the world's food crops rely on pollinators, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Through their pollination, bees not only promote biodiversity, but also secure our food supply.
But one in four species of bee is at risk of extinction in North America, according to the United Nations Environment Program. And the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has recorded declines in bee populations in Europe, South America, and Asia.
A combination of factors are contributing to the decline of bees, including habitat loss and degradation, pesticide use, the invasive parasitic Varroa destructor mite, and other diseases. The effects of climate change are compounding these stressors on bee populations worldwide.
But people around the world are working to create an environment that helps bees thrive. In honor of National Honey Month, Food Tank is highlighting 15 organizations and initiatives working to preserve the livelihood of bees, the ecosystem, and the global food supply.
1. Bees for Development, United Kingdom
Bees for Development is an international organization that utilizes beekeeping as a tool to alleviate poverty and retain biodiversity around the world. They work in over 50 countries within local communities, and implement sustainable beekeeping techniques that use only local bees and local resources. They have an open-access information portal that provides information on bees and beekeeping worldwide. Bees for Development also provides advice and guidance to the World Bank, the United Nations, and other international organizations.
2. BEES for the World, Germany
BEES for the World is dedicated to designing sustainable supply chains for high quality organic-certified bee products all over the world. Their commitment is to Biodiversity, Education, Empowerment, and Sustainability (BEES). They work primarily within African countries to support forest beekeeping. By empowering local communities in the production of high-quality beeswax and connecting them to markets, the group protects local ecosystems while fostering the creation of jobs.
3. Elephant and Bees Project, Kenya
What began as a strategic plan to save the elephants, grew into a conservation project for elephants and bees alike. The Elephant and Bees Project uses beehive fences – a natural deterrent of elephants – to keep elephants off of farmland, reducing crop damage. This not only increases protected habitats for bees, but also helps educate farmers on the relationship between bees and crop health. The project supports increased bee populations and works in multiple countries throughout Africa.
4. Federation of Nepal Beekeepers, Nepal
The Federation of Nepal Beekeepers was established in 1999 to support and empower local beekeepers throughout Nepal. This umbrella organization advocates for national policies that benefit beekeepers, their bees, and their livelihoods. The organization also works to increase the capacity of beekeepers by training and educating farmers on the importance of bees in pollination and pasture management.
5. Honeybee Research Institute, Pakistan
The Honeybee Research Institute promotes beekeeping in Pakistan with the honeybee Apis mellifera. While Apis mellifera honey bees were initially imported from Australia, the species has thrived in Pakistan since the late 1970s. With over 400,000 colonies present today, the bees contribute to increased honey production, income-production for rural populations, and increasing biodiversity. The Institute provides beekeeping training courses, promotes beekeeping for income generation, and has on-going research projects.
6. Pesticide Action Network Europe, Belgium
Founded in 1987, the Pesticide Action Network (PAN Europe) is a network of consumer, public health, and environmental organizations, trades unions, women's groups, and farmer associations from across Europe. As advocates for a pesticide-free Europe, PAN Europe works closely with government representatives to try to reduce the use of hazardous pesticides. Through their European Citizens' Initiative, "Save Bees and Farmers", they are collecting signatures and calling on the European Commission to phase out synthetic pesticides in agriculture by 2035.
7. Pollinator Partnership Canada, Canada
As a leader in pollinator research and habitat improvement for over 20 years, Pollinator Partnership Canada provides and supports various projects that help protect pollinators. They offer a Pollinator Steward Certification program for land managers, communities, and organizations. Pollinator Partnership also successfully advocated for Pollinator Week- inaugurally designated June 22-28, 2020 – in Canada to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators.
8. Purple Hive Project, Australia
Australia is the only continent not yet affected by the Varroa destructor mite, but researchers fear that Australian honey bees may soon be at risk. The Purple Hive Project is on a mission to prevent this mite – which decimates colonies and spreads honey bee viruses – from impacting honey bees in Australia. The Purple Hive uses Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology to detect the mite in real-time so that its spread can be prevented. Their long-term goal is to create a network of hives in high-risk locations across Australia.
9. Slovenian Beekeepers Association, Slovenia
The Slovenian Beekeepers Association, originally founded in the late 1800s, offers key beekeeping knowledge and support within the country. The Association advocates and raises awareness on behalf of bees and their importance in the environment, provides beekeeping camps and workshops, and publishes a monthly beekeeping magazine. They are also registered as a research institution, where they develop safe bee products and research ways to protect the Carniolan bee, a type of honey bee indigenous to Slovenia.
10. The Bee Girl Organization, United States
Sarah "Bee Girl" Red-Laird founded The Bee Girl Organization to inspire communities to conserve bees, flowers, and food. The Bee Girl team engages communities across the globe, providing educational classes and resources for regenerative beekeeping. In 2019, Bee Girl partnered with a local vineyard to initiate a Bee Friendly Vineyards pilot program. They planted 1800 square feet of sunflowers on a plot of unused land to attract bees to the area. This year, they are partnering with an additional vineyard to begin an in-depth research and habitat project.
11. The Honeybee Conservancy, United States
The Honeybee Conservancy is dedicated to protecting bees and securing food justice through education, research, habitat creation, and advocacy. Their flagship program, Sponsor-A-Hive, places native bee homes within urban gardens, schools, and organizations that grow produce to bolster local ecosystems. Last year they unveiled an eight-foot-tall rooftop beehive on the Empire State Building, which will house over 70,000 honey bees. Their goal is to place one million bees to support communities of need across the U.S..
12. Under the Mango Tree, India
Under the Mango Tree was founded with the mission to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in rural India. The organization teaches farmers how to maintain bee boxes on their farms and harvest honey, and connects them to markets to sell their honey. They specifically focus on the indigenous bee, Apis cerana indica, to increase pollination and crop yields. In addition, the organization has trained upwards of 1,000 women to be beekeepers.
13. United Nations Development Program, International
To help achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) partners with local communities in multiple countries to work with smallholder beekeepers and farmers around the world. Through training and resources they help beekeepers earn a decent living and support the health of their communities, while providing a healthy habitat for bees. With help from the UNDP, beekeepers can more easily access markets and improve their livelihoods.
14. Wheen Bee Foundation, Australia
Gretchen Wheen, a pioneer in bee research and one of Australia's most well known beekeepers, donated her estate to establish the Wheen Bee Foundation upon her passing in 2012. The Foundation promotes awareness of the importance of bees for food security and ecosystem health. It funds research and development projects that seek to improve the health of the local bee population. They are currently working in partnership with other organizations to save the Green Carpenter Bee on Kangaroo Island, as the island recovers from the destructive fires earlier this year.
15. World Bee Project, England
Using cloud computing technology, the World Bee Project created the world's first globally coordinated honeybee hive monitoring initiative. This Network will provide data that can inform international actions to improve pollinator habitats, food security, and nutrition. With this project, developers hope to deliver findings to smallholder farmers around the world.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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