World Bee Day – an endangered species yet essential to our biodiversity


BeSafeBeeHoney COST Action emphasises the role of beekeepers as the future stewards of our ecosystem

Honey has always been a rich source of natural sugar and is valued for its medicinal benefits, such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and its potential anticancer properties. In addition, it contains vitamins such as Vitamin C and B and minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium as well as various enzymes and amino acids.

To produce this liquid gold for humans and nature, bees are at the heart of the ecosystem and play a crucial role in pollinating flowering plants, including many crops that humans rely on for food. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend on animal pollination. Honeybees and other pollinators provide key ecosystem services for 35% of global agricultural land, sustaining the growth of nearly 75% of the leading fruit and seed crops for human consumption worldwide. The effective and healthy progress of pollination services ensures the sustainability of agriculture and natural ecosystems. Furthermore, beekeeping is an increasing economic activity intrinsically connected to crop processes.

Close up photo of a bee landing on a yellow flower

However, 1 in 10 wild bee species face extinction in Europe. Bees are in decline and face numerous threats, including habitat loss, pesticide use, diseases, pollution, and parasites. In addition, climate change through temperature variation can negatively impact bees. These are called abiotic and biotic stressors. These factors have contributed to declining bee populations globally, which has significant implications for agriculture and ecosystems. The use of veterinary drugs or pesticides on honeybees is also associated with health risks since their residues can be carried over to honey and honey-based products.

Introducing BeSafeBeeHoney COST Action

Faced with these glaring observations, a group of researchers from 41 countries has set up a network bringing expertise in chemistry, biology, ecology, veterinary, beekeeping, agricultural engineering, nutrition, economy, and policy to deliver breakthrough scientific developments to protect this endangered species.

For the next four years, BEekeeping products valorization and biomonitoring for the SAFEty of BEEs and HONEY (BeSafeBeeHoney) will collect crucial information and data for future prediction of contaminants and abiotic stressors to set strategies for reducing these contaminants in honeybees and their products, while valuing its nutritional and nutraceutical properties through the development of key evidence on updated regulations, and quality criteria frameworks. The network will assess prevalent diseases that damage honeybee colonies, including imported threats. In agriculture, the consequences of lost colonies impact the ecosystem and the food chain. Therefore, monitoring and providing systemic solutions for agroecosystems in danger can protect honeybees.

“In the hive of innovation, BeSafeBeeHoney buzzes with purpose, gathering the nectar of knowledge to protect our precious pollinators. Through data-driven foresight and commitment, we’re crafting a sweeter tomorrow where honey flows untainted and bee colonies thrive, a testament to harmony between nature and nurture.”

Dr Andreia Freitas, Chair of BeSafeBeeHoney

Preserving biodiversity

BeSafeBeeHoney COST Action, with the collected evidence-based data, will develop effective solutions to this global issue to contribute to protecting the ecosystem. By involving key players in the field aligned with EU entities (European Commission Bee Protection & EFSA) and international organisations (United Nations’ SDGs; UNEP; FAO), the network will contribute to the design of new policies, set up measures, improve legislation, and use the collected data for the valorisation of hive products.

With a history spanning 30 million years, bees continue to be indispensable contributors to our ecosystem. Recognising the critical role of beekeeping, there is a growing call to action to harness its multifaceted benefits for economic prosperity, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation.

Bees have been here for about 30 million years

There are 20.000 species

Bees have 5 eyes and 6 legs

Bees communicate through chemicals called pheromones

The queen been can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day

Bees fly about 20 mph

A pound of honey is made by 2 million flower visits

Each bee has 170 odorant receptors

Bee Creative!

When the network kicked off last September, it launched a logo contest among its members to collectively create their own visual identity.

The winning Action logo for BeSafeBeeHoney
Different logo ideas generated by the network members

Since then, BeSafeBeeHoney has challenged its network with different activities. From monthly weBEEnars, the Best Bee Product award to the World Bee Day Digital storytelling challenge, BeSafeBeeHoney network has been spreading and disseminating this important value chain among researchers, policymakers, industry, and, most importantly, beekeepers. More ideas are being planned and developed, integrating podcasts, interviews with key stakeholders, workshops, and much more.

“Our network brings expertise from 41 countries intending to be a community open to the world. BeSafeBeeHoney is a community for sharing knowledge, perspectives, and ideas and is freely open to all beekeeping enthusiasts. Our goal is one: to protect bees and, thus, our planet!”

Prof. Giuseppa Di Bella, Science Communication Coordinator of BeSafeBeeHoney
BeSafeBeeHoney kickoff in Brussels, October 2023

The 8-month work is now ready to culminate with the BeSafeBeeHoney 1st International Conference, a two-day hybrid event on 28-29 of May to leverage and exchange knowledge on the different fields within the honey value chain. With 200 participants, 20 oral communications, 30 poster presentations, and 6 distinguished keynote speakers, BeSafeBeeHoney will bring to the Greek city of Larissa an amazing experience of innovation and collaboration within the honey value chain.

“Empowerment starts with visibility, thrives on dialogue, and succeeds with knowledge. BeSafeBeeHoney will maximize the Action’s scope by engaging with the scientific community, stakeholders, and the public, and spreading evidence-based interventions far and wide. Together, we will fuel motivation and enhance abilities to apply new strategies, igniting lasting change,” says Dr. Marta Leite, Leader of the Working Group in charge of coordination, dissemination, and stakeholder involvement.

More information about BeSafeBeeHoney’s first International Conference can be found here.

Additional Information

View the Action website

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United Nations World Bee Day