World Bee Day is just around the corner, and now is the perfect time to acknowledge the importance of bees and other pollinators in maintaining the ecosystem.


Directly contributing to 34 percent of global food production, bees are an essential part of the food chain and the ecosystem. Sadly, they are more at risk of extinction than ever before. On 20 May, Aussies across the country are invited to come together for World Bee Day to support the protection of these vital pollinators. 


Why bees?

Around the world, there are more than 20,000 species of bee. In fact, Australia alone is home to 2,000 species of native bee. For some native plants, pollination is only possible through these particular bees.

Pollination occurs when pollen from a plant’s anthers is rubbed or dropped onto a pollinator, who then carries the pollen to other plants for fertilisation. According to World Bee Day, nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production is supported by bee pollination. This process helps to maintain plant diversity, regulate climate, purify the air and water, and recycle nutrients. 



According to Dr Scarlett Howard from Monash University’s School of Biological Science, “Australia hosts approximately 10 percent of global bee diversity.”

“Despite the importance of bees, we understand so little about the behaviour, ecology and habitat of many of our native bee species.

“By exploring the world of understudied and lesser known Australian bee species, we have uncovered a wealth of knowledge regarding their roles in ecosystems, their intelligence, and their value in pollination. There is still so much more to learn about these fascinating and important pollinators.”


Hive under threat 

Sadly, bee populations are under threat due to habitat destruction caused by farming, pests and diseases. 

The most serious bee pest is often regarded as the Varroa mite, a tiny external parasite that latches onto honey bees and can be transferred through contact between insects. Sadly, while Australia remained the only continent without Varroa mite for over two decades, a case was detected in New South Wales as of 2022. 



Similarly, the Wheen Bee Foundation reveals that loss of habitat due to logging and urban encroachment can prevent bees from accessing nesting sites, nectar and pollen resources. Insecticides and fertilisers used in agriculture can be deadly to bees, causing a decline in population. 

Associate Professor Alan Dorin from Monash University believes it is now more important than ever to protect remaining bee colonies.

“As our climate becomes increasingly unstable, and land-clearing for urban expansion and industrial agriculture continues in Australia, we must rapidly learn all we can about our native bees. They are potentially at risk of extinction. New technologies from artificial intelligence (AI) and computer science can help us understand their abundance and habits,” he says.


Make a difference

This World Bee Day, there are many events designed to raise awareness about the importance of bees in maintaining a balanced ecosystem, whether that involves organising a picnic full of treats made with Australian honey or simply starting a conversation about bee conservation.



On the World Bee Day website, you can find an outline of useful tips for helping to protect bees. These include:

  • Buying Australian honey
  • Planting a bee-friendly garden
  • Avoiding pesticides and harmful agricultural chemicals 
  • Supporting the Wheen Bee Foundation
  • Starting a conversation with others about the value of bees 

Equally, it’s important to stay educated about the projects and tools being implemented to protect bee populations. 


NativeBee +

One such program helping to support bees is led by Associate Professor Alan Dorin. The NativeBee+ Tech Facility utilises AI, data science, computer vision and simulation to monitor, simulate and improve our understanding of plant-insect relationships.

At the facility, students and professors design and test technological tools that can support bee pollination, hive health, and the management of invasive pests. 

According to Associate Professor Dorin, “Remote digital insect monitoring stations allow us to identify insect species visiting crops and wildflowers. These new technologies assist us to be good custodians of Australia’s biodiversity, and to monitor pests and pathogens amongst introduced species such as the European honeybee we depend on for managed crop pollination.”

To learn more about the impact of Varroa mite and the programs seeking to eradicate it, click here.