When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

A Bee For Every Person: Inside Spain's Ambitious Re-Pollination Plans

The Smart Green Bees project aims to tackle the bee crisis by repopulating Spain with a symbolic 47 million native bees, one per every Spaniard. The challenge will be ensuring the project is done responsibly.

A black and brown bee resting on a pale hand

A black and brown bee rests on a human hand.

José A. Cano

MADRID — What is killing the bees? It's a multi-faceted answer: pesticides, deforestation, the climate crisis, a rural crisis that is ruining beekeepers and diseases that are spreading faster than ever before. Farmers and environmentalists have grown tired of explaining bees' crucial presence in our ecosystem: they are the main pollinating insect, essential for biodiversity and for food security.

In North America and Europe, bee’s population decline is projected to average around 30%, while in Spain it is estimated to be close to 40%. But it is by no means inevitable. One project aims to alleviate this drop by "repopulating" Spain with 47 million bees — that's one for every Spaniard. The objective is to help beekeepers avoid having to choose between creating new hives and turning a profit.

This is the purpose of Smart Green Bees, a scheme backed by the technology company LG and run by the association El Rincón de la Abeja (The Bee's Corner). Specifically, they are bringing back the Apis meliferia iberiensis, a species native to the Iberian Peninsula and the only one adapted to pollinate all the species that inhabit its countryside.

The number 47 million is a symbolic one taken from the first Smart Green project – LG's own ecosystem regeneration project – which began with the idea of reforesting Spain with one tree per inhabitant. Now it's the turn of the bees.

A person in beekeeper's clothes tends to a hive in a green garden.

A beekeeper in front of an open hive in Deans Court, Wimborne, United Kingdom.

Annie Spratt

The bee crisis

"In recent years, in addition to invasive species and diseases, other types of bees have become more common in Spain. They are less adapted to the ecosystem but more docile and easier to manage, even though they are not necessarily more productive of honey," explains Paola Vecino, president of El Rincón de la Abeja.

"We are working to restore the species native to the Iberian Peninsula, which has characteristics more in keeping with the local flora," she says, "but we have to do so while also ensuring that we do not destabilize the ecosystem we want to revive."

Should anyone be wondering how bees are counted, well the answer is simple: by weight. "The monitoring system involves scales to track population progression. The bee is an essentially diurnal animal, so between 12 noon and 12 midnight there is a difference in weight from which the number of procreating bees can be deduced," says Vecino.

The worry is further destabilizing the environment intended for recovery.

Parts of Spain are rural and vacant, which deepens the bee crisis: some beekeepers have to close their businesses or have problems passing them down to their children, who choose other professions or move to cities, a phenomenon that is common across the agricultural sector.

Four black and yellow bees work in the hive

Bees working in the hive.

Meggyn Pomerleau

Reintroducing bees responsibly

Smart Green Bees "subsidizes" beekeepers so that they do not have to choose between selling their honey or letting the hives expand. This decision is made in the spring, when the hives are at their peak and new ones can be established around new queens. Letting the population grow means not selling the honey produced in the fall – which might lead to the closure of a small business. The program wants to solve that problem.

The beekeepers and technicians at El Rincón de la Abeja will ensure that the bee population is reintroduced "in a sustainable manner". The worry is further destabilizing the environment intended for recovery, since it is a question of "restructuring ecosystems through the controlled introduction and expansion of a species in decline". The return of Apis iberiensis will disrupt the floral density, predators and honey production, so it is essential to keep tabs to ensure the treatment is not worse than the disease.

Smart Green Bees is currently operating throughout Spain, with participating beekeepers present in the provinces of Alicante, Barcelona, Guadalajara, Malaga, Tenerife and Valencia. At the beginning of the program, 6,000 new bees were introduced, which they hope to increase to 60,000 this year.

The project is expected to last three years in the medium term, which, when scaled up, will enable the symbolic figure of 47 million bees to be reached.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest