KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Even though cicadas have been in the spotlight thanks to the emergence of Brood X, May 20 is World Bee Day, which celebrates the contributions of bees and other pollinators to our human food and agriculture plus raises awareness about the need to protect them.

The United Nations General Assembly declared the date for World Bee Day in honor of the buzzing critters; holding discussions with virtual events on how to “bee engaged” and the importance of the pollinators in our ecosystems.

Locally, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Dept. of Entomology & Plant Pathology is also celebrating World Bee Day and sharing some fun facts about bees.

Here are 6 Things to Know about bees and World Bee Day:

Bees on a honeycomb in East Tennessee. (FILE Photo: WATE)

There are thousands of bee species

It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 species of bees in the world. Bee populations, especially honeybees, are important to Tennessee agriculture for crop pollination.

Bees help feed humans

About 75% of the global food crop types for humans rely in part on pollinators like bees. The UN says not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity.

In Tennessee, the value of crops benefitting from pollination exceeds around $119 million annually.

Spring is swarming season

Spring means bees, but with bees often comes swarms. If you see a swarm of bees (basically is when the bees of the hive divide to find a new hive or follow their queen when she leaves the hive), don’t harm them. Call a swarm removal expert. 

The Knox County Beekeepers Association has more information on who to call for swarm removal.

In Tennessee, all bee hives must be registered and inspected by the state

If you’re thinking of becoming a beekeeper and practicing the apiary arts, the Apiary Act of 1995 includes a section on the registration of apiaries.  In the Apiary Act, new apiaries are required to be registered with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture

All inspections are free by the state of Tennessee; contact your local club or beekeeper association for registration and inspection. All bee hives must be registered or you could face a $500 fine per hive.

Bees are under threat

The UN states present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. Close to 35% of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction globally.

Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities.

You can help the bees

Anyone can help the bees to try and combat bee decline and colony collapse. You can help by doing the following:

  • planting a diverse set of native plants, which flower at different times of the year;
  • buying raw honey from local farmers;
  • buying products from sustainable agricultural practices;
  • avoiding pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in our gardens;
  • protecting wild bee colonies when possible;
  • sponsoring a hive;
  • making a bee water fountain by leaving a water bowl outside;
  • helping sustaining forest ecosystems;
  • raising awareness around us by sharing this information within our communities and networks
  • reducing, or changing the usage of pesticides.