The 2nd World Bee Day: A sweet rhythmic ode to why the hell we have survived so long.

20th May will mark the 2nd World Bee day; A day to celebrate the bees and a day to ponder on what life would be without them. If there would even be any life at all. 

When the flowers are in bloom, zapping from point A to B in Kampala can be orgasmically satisfying. Its sort of like you were invited on an urban safari…and it’s was all expenses paid. I might have to call you a liar if you claimed to have missed how the flowers brighten up an already vibrant population city, with equally stimulating people.

As we stare at the beautifully modeled flower symmetries we have to acknowledge who are they really showing off for. Yep, that’s right, it’s for not me or you; it’s for the bees.

“why don’t bees have their own world bee day, considering that every third spoonful of the world’s food relies on bees and other pollinators, and that bees are increasingly endangered and can almost no longer survive without the help of people?”
Bostjan Noc, President, slovenian Beekeepers association, Slovenia

One fine morning, while listening to the radio on his way to work, Bostjan Noc came up with the idea of a world bee day.  A self-claimed man of action, he immediately forwarded his thoughts to his colleagues at the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association and suggested they propose to the UN to declare world Bee day on May 20th. And that’s how World Bee Day was born.

The date May 20th was chosen because it is the birthdate of one of the most celebrated pioneers of  modern beekeeping, Anton Jansa. Coincidentally, the month of May is when the bees are most active in development in the Northern Hemisphere and in the process of producing honey in the Southern Hemisphere.

Picking a leaf from the way of the bees.

A good number of shareholders in the apiculture and conservation movement are enthusiastically taking on this demanding yet gratifying initiative to help the bees so they can keep helping us. As expected, this has become about more than just the bees.

World leading scientists warn that our planet’s life-support systems is approaching a danger zone for humanity. As we speak, we could end losing up to 1m species, many within decades.

“There is no question we are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect human wellbeing both for current and future generations,” says Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). He goes on to make the message clear, insisting if we don’t act then we are in trouble.

But you see, the thing is the bees sit at the heart of our ecosystems. Over 84% of the species we cultivate depend on bees and other pollinators to get pollinated.  Ecologically, they also play a role in conservation of flora and fauna through pollination services. This has a direct or indirect impact on the quality of our water, on soil fertility and stability and on climate regulation.

The zen state we achieve in green spaces, the warmth you feel when you receive a bouquet of flowers is only possible because they exist. They are actively conserving species and in my opinion, bees are our biggest chance to slow down this midnight train to a complete stop.

What can we do to raise more awareness about this?

A more data driven approach should be taken into consideration. The theme of this year’s World bee day is “To Raise Awareness on The Role of Bees and Pollinators in Food and Agriculture. With what we know it’s time to dig deeper.

Collecting, making data available and using analytical tools such AI and data visualisation is bound  tremendously assist us. We will be able to run prediction models, risk assessments, issue warnings, know threat status and maybe even identify patterns.

In the BBC future article “The untapped potential of Africa’s Honey bees”,  ALUSB Alumnus Terence Chambati Co-Founder and CEO of HuchiHive shared his insight on how we can drive the traditional apiculture industry into the modern age; Digitized.

After he identified the lack of data in the industry, he co-founded HuchiHive;they came up with bee trackers – little “backpacks” for the bees; and now he is off on an ambitious mission to find out all we can about the bees; and how we can work with them to create a sustainable environment.

Beekeeping using the internet of things is the most disruptive technology yet.

  • HuchiHive uses bee trackers, smart hives, insight portals coupled with market access and linkages to enable all beekeeping and conservation enthusiasts protect our bees. This in turn is developing the Apiculture industry from a more informed angle.

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) sensing solutions systems such as that being developed by HuchiHive are able to wirelessly transmit data insights related to the welfare of your bee hive. The results are then fed to a cloud server complying with Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

From here beekeepers, researchers, policy makers and conservationists will be able to participate in these surveillance programmes and act accordingly.

“In spite of this the actual date and time of swarming cannot be predicted accurately…” But that was before beekeepers harnessed the power of smartphone technology.”
Martin Bencsik, a researcher in England’s Nottingham Trent University.

His work is a stellar example of the barriers we can break in research when we harness this new technology. With a group of scientists, he was able to secure trackers to two honeybee hives, allowing them to measure the vibrations created by all that buzzing. They were able to keep track of these bee vibrations for five months. He says that his next step is to see if each hive has its own language.

Trailblazers as mentioned above is why more people are talking about this and it’s significance to bees and other pollinators. With data driven insights, we are able to take a more detailed interest in the bees with unprecedented accuracy and responsiveness.

Bees boast of over 6 high on demand products that are sought after world over. The global apiculture market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual  Growth Rate(CAGR) of 3.12% to reach a market size of US$10.074 billion by 2023, increasing from US$8.378 billion in 2017. Here we find that one is almost immediately rewarded monetarily benefits when you take care of the bees the eco-friendly way; especially as a sustainable business. 

Heather Richardson, a journalist and runner up for 2018 LATA Media Awards best-self published article, thinks this is a sweet deal too. She presented her thoughts in her recent article “The Untapped potential of Africa’s Honey bees” published on BBC future, May 8th.

She goes on to say in her article that if conservation is being challenged to become more profitable, then well-managed bee farming in sub-Saharan Africa could become a pin-up for ethical industries. She concluded that a business that protects a crucial pollinator, preserves forests, and provides sustainable income and business opportunities. 

And it is very hard not to see why this isn’t possible here. In sub-saharan Africa, mobile broadband is anticipated to comprise 87% of total connections by 2025 across 690 million smartphones. Joachim Wuilmet, Head of Customer Marketing and Communications MEA at Nokia thinks that people in Africa are increasingly getting connected and most market players are focused on bringing this connectivity into rural areas and all aspects of society.

Data dedicated to benefit beekeepers to better understand which management practices work  is best. We should be able to collect survey data from beekeepers all over our African continent seasonally. It would make beekeeping and conservation effortless. Our challenge now is to come together as researchers, advisors,stakeholders from various industries and collaborate with both domestic and international organizations to make the greatest impact.

We need to remind ourselves that we rely on bees and pollinators for pollination. We rely on them for our livelihoods and we will forever rely on them for our survival.

It’s a “Beezy” month. What are you doing to raise awareness on the role of the bees for World Bee Day?