Based in Belgium, the social enterprise BeeOdiversity helps companies and local authorities to develop nature-based solutions that aim to restore biodiversity, by collaborating with rather special partners — honeybees.
While three quarters of the global food production depend on pollinating insects, 25% of the European honeybee populations have disappeared between 1985 and 2005, due mainly to global warming, the use of pesticides and air pollution.
But what if these tiny beings could contribute to the restaurations of their habitats efforts and thus become key players in their own survival? That is precisely the idea that drives BeeOdiversity, a Bruxelles-based social enterprise that aims to regenerate biodiversity in strategic locations, such as water catchments or industrial sites, by setting up honeybee hives. How? By using the particles that bees collect unintentionally when they pollinate flowers, to analyze the state of the environment and identify the measures that need to be taken in order to restore it.
A colony —roughly 50,000 bees— can collect an average of about four billion flowers each year. Once deployed, they bring a sample of everything they collect within a 1.5 km radius back to their hive. This sample, later taken from the hive, allows BeeOdiversity to accurately determine the plant species found in the area, their quantity and quality, and to detect the presence of heavy metals, pesticides or even radioactivity.
The company then shares this valuable environmental information with all the ecosystem's stakeholders, including town halls, farmers and businesses, and suggests ways to improve the local fauna and flora. Closing the loop, these measures contribute in turn to foster the regeneration of wild bee species, even more endangered than their domestic cousins.
Co-founded by Dr. Bach Kim Nguyen and three other partners in 2012, the company has currently more than 200 honeybee colonies deployed in 100 different sites in countries such as Belgium, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and soon in the Netherlands, as well as in the Maine area, in the United States. Their projects are conducted in collaboration with companies such as SUEZ, as well as with local authorities.
BeeOdiversity's innovative model's success is now well established. To name just one example, the company launched in 2014 an environmental analysis project in the Belgian city of Knokke-Heist. Since then, the number of plant species favorable to the development of pollinating insects in the city has tripled, and the level of pesticides has dropped significantly, the company says. As a result, there are more new species of pollinators, which has enabled the city of Knokke to be named the most "bee friendly" city in Flanders, twice.
This article has been written as part as a series of stories produced for open_resource by Sparknews, a French social entreprise that aims to foster new narratives that can help accelerate a social and environmental transition to tackle our world's most pressing issues.