Using Pollinators as Environmental Indicators - BeeLife is Coming to Apimondia 2019

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination will participate in the Apimondia International Apicultural Congress 2019, which will take place in Montreal, Canada. Dr Noa Simon Delso, Scientific Advisor at BeeLife, will present how pollinators can help us understand the way different policies affect the landscape and the environment. Measuring the health of pollinators, particularly bees, can provide valuable insights about their surrounding conditions and the way different policies affect them. Bees can help authorities understand their decisions better, thus improving accountability and putting under scrutiny measures that are ineffective or harmful. Dr Simon Delso's intervention is programmed to take place during the Symposium on Status and Conservation of Pollinators on Monday, September 9.

Since the nineties, countries with industrialised agriculture have seen an increase in bee mortality and a severe decline in biodiversity. As a response, conservation efforts have grown, and the protection of wildlife and pollinators has become a relevant issue for public opinion and authorities in Europe. Policies and measures that affect the environment are an essential feature to take into account for conservation efforts. As legislation and policies that affect the environment and landscape continue to evolve, authorities require a better comprehension of the positive or negative impact they have on the environment and wildlife.

An example is the reform of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). European institutions are currently designing a new CAP, which will have a direct impact on Europe's environment [1]. Since one of the objectives is to have a greener and safer agricultural system, authorities will require improved ways to measure the efficacy and the positive or negative impact of policies. BeeLife insists that monitoring pollinators can be a valuable tool to improve our understanding of how policies influence the quality of the environment.

Authorities require indicators for the effectiveness of policies in the environment and landscape. Pollinators present an opportunity to better assess these policies and redirect them if necessary.

Considering the difficulties that pollinators face, BeeLife is pointing towards taking a step further, beyond their protection. BeeLife proposes that authorities can consider bees as dependable allies in measuring the quality of the environment. Initially, this would help have a better understanding of policy impact. And, as a result, it would allow improving public spending towards having better policies that target pollinators.

To measure this impact, BeeLife envisages a Pollinator Index [2]. It would serve as a proxy indicator for three key factors: First, pollination services, which are essential for agriculture and the balance in ecosystems. Second, environment quality and health, for which bees are excellent indicators, as they serve as the canary in the coal mine. Third, measuring results in terms of the sustainability of policies implemented in agricultural or land management. This index is not only a possibility, but with adequate support, it is likely to come to fruition. The European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment is already developing the index within the frame of the EU Pollinator Initiative [3]. However, other institutional bodies need to seriously take it into account within the broad framework of the CAP. As BeeLife insists, this would translate into applying the index for measuring the impact of their policies.

Pollinators can provide a sort of feedback as to how they and their environment are affected by policies. It remains a possibility which merits to be realized. A Pollinator Index can benefit civil society, authorities and wildlife. A better comprehension of policy impact on the environment means better future policies that lead to a more sustainable system.

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Contact: Andrés SALAZAR, BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination:


BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination is an association formed by professionals of the beekeeping sector from different countries of the European Union. Its main activity is the study of the impact on bees of environmental threats such as pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

BeeLife works for the protection of bees based on the principle that 'bees serve as the canary in the gold mine', sounding the alarm that something is 'wrong in the environment'. Not least, bees create 30% of all our food by pollinating fruits, vegetables and arable crops such as sunflower and oilseed rape, having an inherent value that the Coordination is working to protect.

[1] BeeLife, 2019, Voting Recommendations for the EP’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) on the CAP:

[2] BeeLife, 2019, Why We Need Bees as Indicators in the next CAP:

[3] European Commission, Communication on the EU Pollinators Initiative: