Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

Why rare bees in the UK deserve support from the UAE

Here's everything you need to know about why bees are so vital and Dubai's plans to breed their own bee

A Saudi man with his body covered with bees poses for a picture in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. Reuters
A Saudi man with his body covered with bees poses for a picture in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. Reuters

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has been helping a rare bee species in the UK spread their wings at a time when the species is under threat from loss of habitat and the use of pesticides.

It is often claimed that Albert Einstein once said that if bees were eliminated, humankind would soon perish. Whether the scientist actually made the remark is a matter of debate, but researchers agree that if the insects were to become extinct, we would all be in trouble. Here's everything you need to know about why bees are so vital:

Why are bees so important?

They are critically important pollinators, carrying pollen from one plant to another, thereby helping fertilise plants so they can produce fruit and seeds. In fact, bees pollinate 70 of the 100 fruit, vegetable and nut crop species that feed 90 per cent of the world’s population. If they die, so would the plants they pollinate. And if this happens, experts say the world would lose half the vegetables and fruits that are available today.

How endangered are bees?

Very. Estimates suggest they are dying at a frightening rate. In the US, 30 per cent of honeybee hives are lost each year. The US is one of the worst effected countries, but everywhere is registering a decline, from an almost 17 per cent annual loss in Canada to nearly 12 per cent in central Europe.

Why are they dying?

Aside from loss of habitat such as areas of wildflowers, diesel fumes and pesticides are suspected to play a large part in the decline of bees. They damage their ability to foraging, among other negative effects.

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Read more:

UAE conservation fund helps revive rare bees in UK

Sidr trees planted in Ras al Khaimah to help clean the air

Save the bees before it's too late

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What is being done?

A lot, but probably not enough. Domesticated hives are springing up all over the UAE and the world as the trend for urban beekeeping picks up and the European Food Safety Authority has banned a number of bee-damaging pesticides. But the ban needs to be global habitats need to be preserved.

Are there any bees in the UAE?

There are two types: wild Apis florea Arabian dwarf bees, which are very small and red-brown in colour, and imported commercial Apis Mallifera honeybees. There have been attempts to domesticate the Arabian dwarf bee, but they have been unsuccessful according to experts. However, they, too, are under threat from urbanisation, and the Beekeepers Association is currently trying to register them as protected.

The UAE imports 95 per cent of the bees to produce its honey each year, but they are not well suited to the local climate. Efforts are underway to create a Dubai breed that will fare better in the UAE’s harsh climate and produce high quality honey.

How good is honey produced in the Middle East?

It is said to be among the best in the world, particularly that harvested from Yemen's Al Sidr trees. The honey is harvested twice a year in the valleys of Hadramaut and costs between Dh500 and more than Dh1,500 a kilogram.

Its high price is due to its limited availability, unique health benefits and as a result of the conflict in the country, which has resulted in large delays in exporting the honey.

It can now take up to a month or more to transport, compared to two days in previous years. Last year, 1,000 Al Sidr trees were planted in Ras al Khaimah so the same honey may be produced here in the future.

Updated: January 22, 2019 10:58 AM

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