World Bee Day

World Bee Day is celebrated annually on May 20. The purpose of the international day is to acknowledge the crucial role of bees and other pollinators for our ecosytem. Bees are closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea and are presently considered a clade, called Anthophila. There are over 16,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.

Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially. The decline in wild bees has increased the value of pollination by commercially managed hives of honey bees.Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimetres (0.08 in) long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimetres (1.54 in). The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.

Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practised for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, through all phases of art and literature, from ancient times to the present day, though primarily focused in the Northern Hemisphere, where beekeeping is far more common. Sadly an analysis of 353 wild bee and hoverfly species across Britain from 1980 to 2013 found the insects have been lost from a quarter of the places they were found in 1980.

World Bee Day takes place on the anniversary of the birth of Carniolan apiarist and painter Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping, who was baptized 20 May 1734 in Breznica, Carniola (now in Slovenia) Although His exact birth date is not known. From a young age Janša, together with his two brothers, showed a great interest in painting (they had a studio in their barn) and all three brothers, despite being illiterate, went to Vienna and entered the painters’ academy there. His brother Lovro actually finished his studies at the academy and became a professor there, but Anton, despite a talent for painting, soon discovered that his true interests were in bee-keeping.

His interest in bee keeping came from his father who had over one hundred hives at home and neighbouring farmers would gather at the village and discuss farming and bee-keeping. In 1769 he began to work full-time as a bee-keeper and a year later became the first royally appointed teacher of apiculture for all Austrian lands and was employed as a teacher of apiculture at the Habsburg court in Vienna WhereHe kept bees in the imperial gardens (Augarten) and travelled around Austria presenting his observations in regard to moving hives to various pastures.

He became famous for his lectures in which he demonstrated his knowledge of bees. He also wrote two books in German: Discussion on Bee-keeping (1771) after his death. In his Full guide he noted: Bees are a type of fly, hardworking, created by God to provide man with all needed honey and wax. Amongst all God’s beings there are none so hard working and useful to man with so little attention needed for its keep as the bee. He is also noted for changing the size and shape of hives to a form where they can be stacked together like blocks. As a painter he also decorated the fronts of hives with paintings. Janša rejected the belief that the male bees are water carriers and assumed that the queen-bee is fertilized mid-air. He advocated moving hives to pastures. He sadly died in Vienna 13 September 1773 and following his death The Empress Maria Theresa issued a decree obliging all teachers of apiculture to use his books. His second book A Full guide to Bee-keeping was published posthumously in 1775. The UN Member States approved Slovenia’s proposal to proclaim 20 May as World Bee Day in December 2017.

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