Just when you thought we can’t celebrate more holidays in May you hear about World Bee Day!
I bet you're wondering why this day was created and what it means for us coffee farmers.
Bees are important for plant reproduction in general, and particularly for those coffee trees that depend on cross-pollination. Without bees, a lot of the life we see on this planet would not be possible. We wouldn’t be able to sip on our favorite morning drink for example.
So if you ask us, bees are super important and deserve to be celebrated for creating so much life around us.
No life without bees
The world is facing an extinction crisis, and bees are among the few animals that can help us preserve biodiversity. They are some of the most important pollinators to counteract climate change and the conservation of our environment. Pollination is paramount for agriculture, to maintain diversity and variety in our fields and on our plates.
Unfortunately, scientific studies show that bees are having an increasingly harder time surviving due to changes made to their ecosystem (for example due to the use of chemicals to treat crops which create a loss of biodiversity), and due to their health being poorer. Today, bees are considered an endangered species.
To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day. Fun fact: this date is Anton Jansa’s birthday, who’s considered a pioneer of modern beekeeping techniques in Slovenia.
Without bees, there would be 40% less coffee
Did you know that bees are crucial for 40% of the world's coffee production?
There are more than 100 species of coffee worldwide, some of which are self-pollinating, while others depend on the help of pollinators, like bees, to flourish. As a frequent Belvico blog reader, you are undoubtedly aware that Arabica and Robusta are the two most significant and popular coffee varieties.
Arabica plants are known as highland coffee plants and are found above 1.200 - 1.5000 meters altitude. They are self-pollinating plant species so they don’t need the help of insects to reproduce. Yet still, the presence of bees gives Arabica plants a boost!
This is how: as the number of bee species - called “species richness” - found on a coffee farm increases, so does the farm’s productivity. The plants set more fruit, the fruit weight is higher, and the yield is bigger.
Robusta is different from Arabica in many ways, one of them be(e)ing “cross-pollination plants”. Cross-pollinators can’t reproduce without the help of bees who bring along pollen from other plants and in doing so make fertilization possible.
Since Robusta coffee makes up around 40% of the world’s coffee production, there would be 40% less coffee to go around without the help of our buzzing friends.
What coffee farmers can do to help bees
Coffee farmers are growing increasingly worried about the effects of climate change on their crops, and rightfully so! The effects on pollinator habitat mean that bees will be lost, which in turn reduces crop yields. Terrible news for farmers and coffee lovers.
For bee colonies to exist in large numbers, it’s important they have ideal living conditions in and around coffee farms.
What can farmers do to attract more bees?
- Intercropping: mixing up coffee trees with other types of trees. More biodiversity means more nectar sources for the bees, and it also reduces pests in general
- Not using any synthetic pesticides or herbicides
- Keeping parts of the farm untouched; creating a safe habitat where pollinators and wildlife can retreat.
- Embracing flowering weeds, a secondary source of nectar for bees. These weeds can be used as organic waste through the chop and drop method.
The bees are always busy with their tasks, and a lot of people don’t really like them. But we hope you’ll love them more now that you know how important they are. We are only able to relish our daily cup thanks to the bees!