YES | Bee Aware,Bee Protection!

Aug.2.2019

Apr 22nd, the Earth Day, a day set to promote world environmental protection

The theme for Earth Day 2019 is Protect our Species. Shanghai Roots & Shoots calls on everyone to join us in our bee protection program, Bee Aware!

How much do you know about bees?

  • Are they cartoon characters that accompanied you in your childhood?
  • Are they responsible for some painful experience of yours?

But I’m sure your knowledge of bees doesn’t stop there.

  • Do bees need protection?

Yes! They do need protection! The United Nations has established May 20 as World Bee Day. The Chinese government has realized the crisis the Chinese honeybees are facing and are now taking steps to counteract it. In 2003, Beijing established the Chinese Honeybee Nature Reserve in Fangshan District. In 2006, the Chinese honeybee was included in the List of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry by the Ministry of Agriculture.

More and more national teams and institutions havebegun to track and care about changes in bee populations.

Actually,bees are closely related to our daily life.

Bees, along with other pollinators such as butterflies, bats and humming birds, are now endangered due to human activities.

Most plants, including grain crops that make up a large portion of humans’ diets, rely on pollen to reproduce through seeds. Pollination is necessary for 90% of the world’s wild plants, and for 75% of the world’s grains, to reproduce. As a major pollinator, bees are not only essential in helping grains reproduce, but also crucial in maintaining the biodiversity of the entire planet. Biodiversity is an important building block in achieving the sustainable development goals of the planet. Because of this, the state of local bee populations can also be an indicator of the well-being of the local ecosystem.

Manmade problems such as biological invasion, pesticide usage, landscape transformation, and large-scale single-crop farming have tremendously affected and even endangered the local bee populations.

Source: http://www.un.org/en/events/beeday/

How are the bees doing now?

Bee diversity has declined markedly in Europe, with many species disappearing from much of their former range, and some species going extinct. The UK alone has lost three species of native bumblebee, while six more are listed as endangered. Four bumblebee species have gone extinct from the whole of Europe. There is also evidence for similar declines in North America and China.

Source: China dialogue by Dave Goulson On Feb. 10, 2012

The Chinese honeybee, or Apis cerana, is native to China. However, the Chinese honeybee population has declined by 80% in China since the start of the nineteenth century. They have been replaced by Italian honeybees, or Apis mellifera, a yellowish bee that is often preferred by beekeepers.

The Chinese honeybee first appeared over 70 million years ago and is extremely important in terms of ecosystem preservation. The bees’ ability to resist cold weather, coupled with an early turnout and excellence in collecting scattered honey sources, made them much more valuable than Western bees, who often do not have the same olfactory scents as Chinese trees, and will not pollinate them. The Chinese honeybee is also much more resistant to cold and insecticides than most Western bee species, meaning that it is able to pollinate many winter flowering plants that other bee species aren’t. This contributes greatly to the survival of many Chinese plants that reproduced in the colder months. Furthermore, the pollination rate of Chinese honeybees in apples surpasses the pollination rate of Western bees by almost 30%.

While problems such as deforestation, overuse of pesticides, and environmental pollution contribute to the crisis Chinese honeybees are facing, the biggest threat is the introduction of Italian honeybees such as Apis mellifera. Since the Italian honeybees’ wing vibrations are the same frequency as Chinese honeybees, they are able to enter the hive of Chinese honeybees virtually undetected. Then, since two different populations of honeybees cannot coexist in one hive, the intruder Italian honeybees eventually kill the queen of the Chinese honeybees and take over the hive.

Since the introduction and subsequent breeding of Western honeybees in 1896, the distribution area of Chinese honeybees has decreased by more than 75%, while their population in numbers has decreased by more than 80%. Today, they only exist in areas of the Nujiang River Basin in Yunnan, western Sichuan, and Tibet.

Source: Wang Fenghe, Yang Lan, etc. Protection and Utilization of Chinese Honeybees in Beijing[J].Insect Knowledge 2007(6),144-148.

Anatomy of Bees

Shanghai, unfortunately, is not located in any of those areas. Chinese honeybees in Shanghai have actually become extinct. Yes, you heard it right—Chinese honeybees, who are indigenous to Shanghai, have been completely wiped out by Western honeybees here. The only reason Chinese honeybees have been able to survive in the plateau region of northwestern China is because the altitude is too high for Western honeybees to survive.

As an ordinary person, how can we protect the Chinese honeybees?

The easiest step is to eliminate its biggest threat – the Italian honeybees!

However, after seriously evaluating the feasibility of the proposal, I have found several problems:

  1. It is hard to distinguish between Italian bees and Chinese bees. (You may ask, haven’t the Chinese honeybees in Shanghai become extinct?! In fact, many people have made some efforts to counteract this and bring back Chinese honeybees. Some organic farms in Shanghai have been consciously keeping Chinese honeybees and using Chinese honeybees to pollinate the farm’s strawberries, tomatoes and other wildflowers. So, although Chinese honeybees are naturally extinct in Shanghai, it still may be possible to encounter.)
  2. Who is brave enough to “greet the bees”? Being stung by a bee remains a great fear.
  3. What is the use of eliminating a single working Italian honeybee? Usually each hive consists of a queen, tens of thousands of workers, and drones that only appear during the breeding season. The queen can produce 2,000 eggs per day on average, 99% of which eventually turn into workers, who can only live for 4-6 weeks.

Even if someone succeeds in identifying an Italian bee and bravely destroys it, he/she has only eliminated a creature that will die on its own in 6 weeks’ time.

After a serious joke, let’s now turn to something practical that we can do 🙂

As a consumer, we can buy honey made from Chinese honeybees, such as Bee Panda.

Furthermore, we can support and purchase vegetables and fruits from organic farms that keep Chinese honeybees. We recommend 3 farms who raise Chinese honeybees for pollination.

  1. BioFarm
  2. Xingeng Eco Farm (心耕生态农园)
  3. Niteday field (朝暮牧场)
  4. 缪尔自然保育生态农业研习中心

If you are a member of Roots & Shoots group in school and are interested in Bee Aware Campaign, please contact the communication manager Chen Ting, sending a Bee Aware application email to ting.chen@srschina.org.

If corporate volunteer teams is about to contribute to Bea Aware Campaign, please contact Rebecca at Rebecca@srschina.org. We will support you to education the youth on bee protection via interesting interactive class activities. We developed ready-to-use class on bees, and Roots & Shoots groups in schools love responsible corporate citizenship. Let’s do something together!

Finally, if you want to do more to protect the bees, please forward this article and increase awareness on the importance of bees and the crisis that Chinese honeybees face.

Jane Goodall, the founder of Roots & Shoots, once said,

“ Only if we can understand, can we care!

Only if we care, will we help!

Only if we help, shall all be saved!”

Let’s care about the bees together!

No matter how tiny they are,

They are closely connected to every one of us!

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HOW TO GET INVOLVED?

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Message from Dr Goodall

Every individual matters; every individual has a role to play; every individual can make a difference.