Last week, the Netherlands held a bee-counting event in which more than 11,000 volunteers from across the country participated. The volunteers spent 30 minutes recording the various types of bees visiting their gardens with the help of a list of the most common bees present in the country during this time of year. This country-wide event is the fourth installment of the national bee census, a movement that was started to address the concerning decline of the Dutch bee population.
Due to the rise of agriculture, the native wild bee population in the Netherlands has been in steady decline since the 1940s. Under pressure to increase their output, Dutch farmers were encouraged to expand their farmlands, replacing multitudes of bee-sustaining wildflowers with crops. The loss of wildflowers led to a drastic fall in bee populations, and now, according to Kalkman, more than half of the Netherlands’ 360 bee species are endangered.
In 2018, a national pollinator strategy was introduced to protect and bolster Dutch bee populations, especially in cities. The strategy includes the bee census as well as 70 other initiatives such as the installation of a honey highway, bee hotels, and bee stops throughout the country to support these valuable pollinators. Fortunately, the initiative seems to be having a positive impact!
Vincent Kalman, an entomologist at Naturalis, one of the organizations behind the census, reported that this year, “an average of 18 to 20 bees and hoverflies were recorded in each garden during the count. These numbers have remained steady over the years, indicating that there is no strong decline in urban gardens.”