Bees are widely known as the hardworking, winged mascots of delicious honeycomb, but the real service they provide to the world comes from the plants that they pollinate. Without bees and other pollinators to transfer pollen from plant to plant, we wouldn’t be able to grow and harvest the fruit and vegetables that form more than a third of our global food supply. National Bee Day falls on August 17th each year, and it’s the perfect time for bee fans everywhere to show a lot of love for these iconic little winged insects. From cultivated apiaries to wild hives, bee colonies are the buzzing heart of plants, flowers, vegetables, and so much more.
What is National Honey Bee Day?
First declared in 2010 in a proclamation by the then-US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsak, National Honey Bee Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of August each year. The proclamation instructed the country to “celebrate the honey bee and its many contributions with appropriate observances and activities” during this annual acknowledgment. This open-ended language gave individual states and towns leeway to decide the best ways to honor local honeybee contributions. For some, this meant honey-themed and education-centric booths and festivals, while others invited local beekeepers – and in some cases of enclosed hives, actual bees – to the festivities.
How Can I Celebrate National Honey Bee Day?
One of the easiest ways to honor the tiny buzzing powerhouses of agricultural infrastructure is to search for local festivities that are already established. Ask your local chamber of commerce about bee festivals, or inquire with a few apiaries directly if you’re lucky enough to have some in the area. If your city or town has a recurring farmer’s market, asking about the holiday in advance may even inspire them to highlight the work of the honey bee or invite honey providers to set their booths and tents up front-and-center.
If no local events are planned, consider taking matters into your own hands and working with your town or city council members to arrange an event or display in honor of the bees. This may be as simple as a tabletop display at the local library, or as elaborate as a main street festival with honey-centric vendors and food. Obviously, when starting from scratch, the more time before the event the better – this will give everyone adequate time to design and implement the many stages of planning that go into a large festival.
If low-key celebrations are more your style, a friendly seed swap is an excellent way to help bees too! Your state’s agriculture offices should be able to recommend some local flora that supports pollinators, and may even have seeds to distribute. Craft-based community events work too, such as building a “bee waterer” with shallow dishes and marbles or creating “seed bombs” from clay and flower seeds for planting in abandoned fields and plains.
Celebrating National Bee Day At Home
Each individual bee works hard to keep a hive healthy and active, just as individual contributions across the nation make national bee day so successful. If you’d rather celebrate pollinators from the comfort of your own home, there are still plenty of solo projects that make a huge difference for your local bee population:
- Make Your Yard Bee-Friendly: To commemorate the holiday, consider committing to bee-friendly pesticides or natural alternatives, such as installing bat houses. Pesticides intended for weeds or nuisance bugs can have deadly consequences for innocent pollinators and result in habitat loss, so omitting them from your landscaping routine ensures the safety of honey bee populations. Don’t be afraid to leave areas of your yard a little less manicured, either: some weeds and wildflowers help bees find food.
- Buy Local Honey & Whole-Honey Products: Ultra-pasteurized honey found at the supermarket comes from companies that rely on bulk harvesting, which isn’t always in the best interest of the bees. Stocking your cabinets with whole-comb honey and local, raw honey not only supports small, local beekeepers but through supply and demand, encourages pollinators in your local area. As an added bonus, eating local honey has been linked to a myriad of health benefits, including a strengthened immune system and the ability to reduce seasonal allergies.
- Educate Your Neighbors: Whether it’s a quick chat across the fence or a conversation over the BBQ, letting your neighbors know about the importance of honey bee pollination helps support the spirit behind National Honey Bee Day. Encourage them to call bee-friendly hive relocation groups before exterminators if a hive or colony pops up in their shed or eaves, and offer to share flowers and seeds with them for their own landscaping.
Celebrate Bees Every Day: Think Globally, Act Locally
Just as you count on the hard work of bees to keep your food sources growing and accessible, they’re counting on you to build and support a world where humans welcome them. Encourage the flowers that feed the hive, support sustainable beekeeping in your area, buy and consume natural honey products that have been responsibly harvested, and remind your friends and family about how much our world depends on pollinators. Knowing you’ve done everything you can to protect the bees on National Honey Bee Day is a reward that’s even sweeter than the honey they create.
- “Pollinators need you. You need pollinators.” Pollinator.org, (no publish date), https://www.pollinator.org/pollinators. Accessed July 29, 2019.
- “Save The Date: National Honey Bee Day.” Honey Love.org, (no publish date), https://honeylove.org/national-honey-bee-day/. Accessed July 29, 2019
- “World Honey Bee Day.” Days Of The Year.com, (no publish date), https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/world-honey-bee-day/. Accessed July 29, 2019.