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Today, May 20th, is an important day. The World Bee Day has been established on 2017 by the United
Nations General Assembly to raise awareness on the essential function of bees for biodiversity and for
human being.

The value of annual agricultural production in the EU directly attributable to pollinating insects is 15 billion euros. In the EU, about 84% of cultivated species and 78% of wild flora depend, at least in part, on
butterflies, hymenoptera, beetles, bats and birds, while the part that depends exclusively on bees is 35%.
These small tireless insects literally support the entire planet with their flight: if the bees disappeared from the world, over 300,000 spontaneous species and the majority of our food would disappear (Nick Hanley 2015) (Leonhardt S. D. 2013). Pollinators are an essential part of any healthy ecosystem. Without them, we would see the decline and eventual extinction of many plant species and all organisms related to them, with consequences on ecological, social and economic balances such as the very availability of food due to crop losses. Currently, the species with the most data are bees and butterflies: in Europe one in ten species of both is at risk of extinction (ISPRA 2020).

Bees and other pollinating insects are therefore fundamental in food webs and ecosystems, yet they are
among the most threatened species in the world, mainly due to human activity. Their survival is at risk due to intensive agriculture and use of pesticides that deplete biodiversity; climate change, that can alter the timing of flowering, and the transformation of land use, which alters the delicate ecological balance. All this allows parasites and pathogens to find the conditions to proliferate too. It is a global problem that
involves countries all over the world, from Europe to the United States, from Russia to Brazil.

According to a study of the UCL researchers published on Nature, climate change and intensive agricultural land use have already been responsible for a 49% reduction in the number of insects. Losing insect populations could be harmful not only to the natural environment, where insects often play key roles in local ecosystems, but it could also harm human health and food security, particularly with losses of pollinators.

Senior author Dr. Tim Newbold (UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research) said: “We have
previously found that insect pollinators are particularly vulnerable to agricultural expansion, as they appear to be more than 70% less abundant in high-intensity croplands compared to wild sites. Careful management of agricultural areas, such as preserving natural habitats near farmland, may help to ensure that vital insects can still thrive”.

To protect insects, especially pollinators, urgent and concrete actions are therefore needed: protect natural habitats, slow the expansion of high-intensity agriculture, and cut emissions to mitigate climate change.

To face this challenge, everyone can make the difference. There are several actions we can put into practice to safeguard the well-being of pollinators, such as avoiding cutting the grass in the flowering peaks of the lawns, reducing the use of pesticides and sowing honey plants in our gardens, to supply the bees with abundant food. It is also important to support the activity of local beekeepers, for example by buying honey and other products deriving from beekeeping in local markets.

Taking care of pollinators allows us to conserve plant biodiversity and at the same time ensure the
production of food. Protecting them is the only way to guarantee a future for us too.

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