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Te Whanganui-a-Tara – There are many more bee species than most people realise, more than 20,000, and now and scientists have made a giant leap toward to protect them.

Bees are one of nature’s most important pollinators but they are declining in New Zealand.

A decline in bee numbers around the world has been put down to several factors, including pesticides, varroa mite and climate change. Of the registered beekeepers in New Zealand, 75 per cent were considered hobbyists, operating 10 hives or fewer.

Despite a host of challenges facing bees and their keepers, the number of registered hives in New Zealand climbed from 500,000 in 2014 to 869,000 in 2020, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Bee populations around the world are at risk due to human activities such as pesticide use and climate change.

Understanding the distribution of bee species is critical to inform conservation and sustainable land management decisions.

The majority of plants rely on pollination by animals and up to $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss.

Bees do much more than make honey, and there are more bee species than there are mammals and birds combined.

They visit more than 90 percent of the leading crop types and are the top pollinator group in many countries.

Although awareness of the importance of bees has been on the rise in policy circles and the general public our response has not kept up with the threats that they face.

Using a comprehensive checklist of bee distribution and almost six million public bee records, an international team of researchers pioneered an insight into global patterns of bee diversity.

Most plants and animals follow the same pattern, in which there is most biodiversity towards the tropics, and less towards the poles. Bees appear to be an exception to this rule.

A Dutch study is providing crucial steps in assessing the impact of human activity on bees and tracking the potential decline of bee populations.

It is hoped that it will form an important baseline for further research and targeted conservation efforts. The findings will help scientists and governments identify bee hotspots that are in areas of the world at risk from environmental degradation and damaging agricultural practices.

The research could also allow a better understanding of pollination services in analyses of ecosystem services. Equally, it could be used to predict the effect of climate change on future bee distributions, especially as it impacts rainfall patterns.

Putting bees on the map, along with rhinos, tigers and pandas, lays the foundations for more efficient and effective conservation efforts and enable us to protect the ecosystems on which bees, and people, so desperately depend.