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Bee engaged for our pollinators – SLU is!

Published: 22 May 2023

Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are part of the biodiversity on which we all depend for our survival. They are increasingly under threat from human activities and it is, therefore, crucial to monitor their decline and halt the loss of biodiversity. To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the United Nations has designated 20 May as World Bee Day. And today, 22 May, is the International Day for Biological Biodiversity – a day to mark the importance of building back biodiversity.

In these days, what could be better than talking to an SLU employee who is involved in several international projects on bees, about their importance for ecosystem services and our food supply. SLU Global asked Lotta Fabricius, research assistant at SLU RådNU, which is the National Center for Advisory Services, about her work.

Hi Lotta, what do you do at SLU?

– At SLU RådNu, I work mainly with topics related to beekeeping and pollination.

This year’s theme for the International Bee Day is Bee engaged in pollinator-friendly agricultural production. Why is it so important to protect bees and other pollinators? And how can we all contribute?

– If we look at pollination as an ecosystem service then our food production is highly dependent on pollination of crops by insects. Then, of course, pollination of the wildflowers is also important for food production for wildlife. To safeguard pollination and the pollinators we need to provide nesting sites and food, pollen and nectar from the flowers, in the landscape. If the landscape cannot offer this, fewer pollinators will perform the pollination service.

– It is also important to have a diversity of pollinators supported, different pollinators do the pollination work in different ways and together they provide good pollination, especially when we also need to think about the uncertainty of the weather conditions from season to season.

You have been financed by SLU Global to start a network of Living Labs in Sri Lanka and South India. Can you explain what are Living Labs and what is the purpose with the network? How has it been?

– Yes, we are grateful for this opportunity provided by SLU Global. A Living Lab in our project is a real active place with all the people and activities in it. My colleague in this project Nadarajah Sriskandaraja and I have developed four Living Labs acting as both places of study and networks for the four sites.

– The criteria for choosing the sites were that there are beekeepers in the area interested in developing their beekeeping and supporting sustainable use of the landscape for pollinators, by becoming aware of the food resources for bees in their area and the farming practices used by land managers in the same area.

– We have been fortunate to find two places and interested collaborators in Sri Lanka, one in the Southern parts and one in the north, and then also two places in the South of India. We have visited these places twice this year and will go back again in the autumn to develop a bigger proposal for a project based on the findings from the different sites and together with all beekeepers and partners in the project.

– One of the Living Labs is in Kerala state in India and in collaboration with the Kerala Agricultural University, College of Agricultural in Vellayani. In April we visited the beekeepers in Kottarakkara for the second time together with agricultural students. One of the students made a short video showing the exercises we did that day. (Editors note: You can watch the film via the link further down on this page.)

You are also involved in a section of the AgriFoSe programmme about Functions in extension service pathways in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Laos. Can you ellaborate a bit about this?

– My colleague Jenny Höckert at SLU RådNu and I have been part of the third challenge in the AgriFoSe programme during the last year. The other partners in the challenge bring different cases from their countries to study. In Kenya and Sri Lanka, they look at extension in relation to broad farming productions and in Laos they look at the goat farming system.

– The ambition was to at one hand make the knowledge systems supporting farmers visible and on the other hand, compare the systems between the countries to look for differences and similarities to be able to suggest some common functions that need to be in place in order to provide good knowledge support for farmers. From Sweden, we brought the case of a knowledge system within beekeeping for comparison.

Is there a nything else you would like to add?

– When we want to make a change for sustainable land use from the perspective of pollinators, we have to move between different scales. We need to look at the local contexts working close with people owning stewardship for action in a certain area but also put the local conditions in touch with the broader landscape picture. This is to find out what the situation is for pollinators, both managed honey bees and wild pollinators in general and how the landscape can be improved to support them.

Thank you Lotta, it was really interesting to hear about your important work with beekeeping on an international scale. Good luck with your future work!