Hungary: World Bee Day – What’s all the buzz about?

Today is World Bee Day, and it’s a good time to reflect on how nature, our environment, and our everyday food all rely on endangered pollinators

A bumblebee flying towards a flower
©Gaspar Costa

In Europe, we take for granted our verdant green forests and lush meadows. Hungary’s landscape of gold and emerald fields crisscrossed with rivers, orchards laden with fruit around villages with white temple towers – These landscapes might look dreamy and timeless from a distance. But this serene world is a fragile one, it depends on a delicate balance of nature and resources and an already overburdened cushion of biodiversity. One crucial factor is pollinators. Without these insects, this green realm would fall into a cascade of system failures – And they are already endangered.

Around 84% of our natural flora and 76% of the food industry directly or indirectly relies on natural pollinators, yet due to the shrinking of their habitats, industrialization and unsustainable agricultural practices, their populations in Hungary have been dramatically declining for decades. According to the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH), this spring alone, five rapeseed plantations have been demolished in the county of Baranya, Southern Hungary, because of the danger they posed to pollinators due to breaking regulations and using plant protection chemicals that are dangerous to bees.

How are pollinators doing in Hungary today? How are the stakeholders coping?

A trailer carrying beehives parked next to an orchard
©Almakúti Kft.
A mobile hive at Almakúti's apple orchards.

The unsung heroes of our meadows and orchards

As we know, the numbing spring frosts that have hit the whole of Europe this spring, have been hard on horticulture and crops. So much so that the larger pattern of ongoing climate change must have a profound effect on every level of the living environment. So I ask Mr. Dick Van Mourik of Almakúti Kft. about the effects this climate has on pollination. Mr. Mourik, a Dutchman who has been living in Hungary since 1996, is the manager of the apple-producing company that lies in the territory of the Balaton Uplands National Park. When he picks up the phone, he answers my questions in fluent Hungarian. “85% of the harvest in the apple orchards have been destroyed by the frost,” Mr. Van Mourik replies. Is it also hard for bees to pollinate the remaining flowers? “It is. Springtime usually brings around certain weather conditions – A certain wind velocity and humidity that bees need in order to be able to do their work.”

Almakúti Kft. employs mobile bee hives. These hives are mounted on a trailer and left in the orchards throughout the season. “It’s more practical this way,” Mr. Van Mourik explains. Mobile beekeeping doesn’t just help businesses. It also helps balancing out the density of pollinators in an area, while solving the logistical problems of beekeeping. A win-win-win all around – For the beekeeper, the apple farmer, and the busy little workers.

Bee hotel being prepared for installation.
©Syngenta Hungary
Bee hotels being prepared for the Operation Pollinator project.

The busy life of city bees

But what about our cities? The 21st century is shaping up to be the age of human cities and a considerable portion of our world is now covered in sprawling urban landscapes.

The sound of bees buzzing about as they fly from flower to flower might be alien to the urban world, which is why Syngenta Hungary partnered up with the organization Mondolo to create a popular awareness campaign focused on biodiversity and the protection of natural pollinators. The campaign is called “Beporzó Hadművelet” (“Operation Pollinator”). The project is located in the city of Szeged, South-Eastern Hungary, where the partners are preparing “bee pastures” in ten locations around the city. These are small land parcels planted with one of Syngenta’s pollinator pasture seed mix and are meant to be miniature meadows on which the tiny workers can graze. The bee pastures also come with an “insect hotel” each, a construct that emulates the perfect environment for pollinators to hide in, rest and nest. There are also information plaques posted at these sites with QR codes that include links to popular awareness sites about pollinators.

We can all do our part however. Flowers that bees can graze on can be planted in our backyard gardens or even city terraces. Natural pollinators can use all the help we can give them – And the future of humanity literally depends on these tiny workhorses of our natural flora.