World Bee Day.
World Bee Day? Yes, we have a day of the year when we are reminded to focus on honey bees and all the other bees of the world. We have a World Honey Day too so beekeeping is getting a lot of attention these days.
United Nations Support.
On the 20th December 2017, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 20th May World Bee Day. Every year on this day the global public are reminded about the importance of preserving honey bees and all other pollinators, and people are alerted to the significance of bees in providing for the needs of humanity. They are also invited to take positive action to preserve and protect pollinators.
All UN member states supported the resolution with 115 states effectively becoming co-sponsors. These countries include: UK, USA; Canada; China; Russia; Brazil; Argentina; Australia; India and all European Union (EU) members.
Along with many other leading world figures, Pope Francis declared that he welcomed the World Bee Day initiative which is all about raising awareness of the importance of bees and apicultural products. It is about protecting and supporting bees alongside the beekeeping sector. Equally important is actively contributing towards alleviating global poverty and eradicating hunger whilst preserving a healthy environment and its biodiversity.
The Germinal Idea.
The idea for a World Bee Day was conceived at 06:30 hours on 15th September 2014. Slovenian beekeeper Bostjan Noc was driving to work at The Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association where he was president. He was listening to a radio programme about World Days and their meaning and he wondered why bees didn’t have their own day. Considering that every third mouthful of the world’s food relies on bees and other pollinators, and that bees are increasingly endangered and almost no longer able to survive without human interventions and support, Mr Noc thought it seemed only right that the global public should be made more aware of bees.
Placed in the centre of Europe and sharing borders with Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, Slovenia is one of the top beekeeping countries in the world with every 200th inhabitant a beekeeper. For tens of thousands of Slovenian citizens beekeeping is a way of life with a very long tradition and its importance is also seen in the beautifully painted hives which are commonplace in that country. This country is home to Apis mellifera carnica, or the Carniolan bee which evolved 10,000 years ago in the valleys of the Karavanke mountain range that forms the border between Austria and Slovenia.
Slovenia was one of the first countries in the EU to prohibit the use of certain pesticides harmful to bees which reflects the genuine respect for bees at all levels, from government level down, in that country.
May was the chosen month for World Bee Day because in the northern hemisphere the need for pollination is greatest during that period, whilst in the southern hemisphere it is a time for harvesting honey and bee products. The Slovenians honoured their national beekeeping “treasure” Anton Janša (1734-1773) by choosing his birthday, May 20th, to celebrate World Bee Day.
Janša was a pioneer of modern beekeeping and one of the greatest experts of his time. Appointed by Austrian empress Maria Theresa in 1770 to prestigious employment as the imperial and royal beekeeping teacher based at a new beekeeping school in Vienna, Janša became the first beekeeping teacher in the world. His teaching remit also involved travelling round the country. He shared his knowledge of bees through writing beekeeping books and his students followed his teachings in various new beekeeping schools which were set up throughout Austria.
It was common practice at that time to kill off most of the bee colonies before winter but Janša wrote in one of his books, “I do not kill bees to get honey and wax. I keep them strong and healthy, so they will bring me honey again next year.”
We have come full cycle back to focussing on sustainable living and I’m sure that Janša would approve of our endeavours to improve the way we manage honey bee colonies by trying to reduce the use of chemicals, improving forage and nutrition, and endeavouring to reduce colony stress.
Acknowledging World Bee Day.
What might you do to celebrate World Bee Day next year? I’m going to make a honey cake and invite friends over to raise funds for Bees for Development. This is a charity based in Wales that has been working tirelessly for over 25 years to promote beekeeping to combat poverty and protect biodiversity. Bees can give people the means to pay for food, children’s education, and improve their land and crop yields. In the past several years, 650 people in Ethiopia have been trained in beekeeping by this Bees for Development which relies on donations from the public to carry on working.
I shall be making a light honey sponge cake with marscapone. Ideally one would use chestnut honey because of its rich nutty flavour but, with it being hard to obtain in the Highlands, I shall be going for something different like a heather/ragwort mixture. Any flavoursome honey will do though.
Recipe for making a 20cm/8inch sponge cake:
Butter for greasing tin
4 large eggs at room temperature
150g/4oz caster sugar
150g/5oz self-raising flour
2 tsps butter melted in 2 tbsps hot water.
2.5 tbsps honey
Preheat the oven to 175˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Grease a 20cm/8inch diameter deep sponge tin with butter.
Beat the eggs and sugar till pale, fluffy, doubled in volume, and the sugar is dissolved. Continue beating and slowly pour in the honey in a continuous stream.
Sift the flour twice then sift again into the egg and honey mixture. Fold in quickly with a metal spoon then fold in the butter and hot water.
Pour the mixture into the sponge tin. Bake for 20-25 mins until the sponge is a rich golden brown and an inserted skewer or pointed knife comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5-8 mins before turning out onto a cooling rack.
To make the topping, mix the Marscapone and 2 tablespoons of honey together.
When the sponge is cool, slice it horizontally with a bread knife. Place the base on a serving plate and spread it with half the Marscapone mixture. Replace the top and spread with the remainder of the mixture. To decorate, drizzle the remaining honey over the top to create swirls.
Get ahead of the game and practice now for that perfect cake.
Alternative suggestions for celebrating World Bee Day:
- Plant bee friendly shrubs or flowers in your garden
- Make some homes for bumble bees and solitary bees
- Talk to at least 10 people about bees during the day
- Extroverts might want to dress up as a bee
- wear clothes with bee motifs
- Support a beekeeping/environmental charity
- Alert all your contacts on social media to World Bee Day
Have fun planning and sharing the day when it comes.
For more information contact:
www.bumblebee.org (making bumble bee homes)
www.discoverwildlife.com/british-wildlife/ (bee friendly gardens)