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Ministrica za kmetijstvo, gozdarstvo in prehrano Mateja Calusic, predsednica republike Natasa Pirc Musar in Fiona Chambers iz avstralske fundacije Wheen Bee.

Wheen Bee Foundation takes out gold for World Bee Day

The Wheen Bee Foundation has won a coveted global prize for outstanding achievements in the preservation, promotion and research of bees and other pollinators.

At an awards ceremony in Ljubljana, Slovenia last night, Wheen Bee Foundation CEO Fiona Chambers accepted the Golden Bee Award on behalf of the Foundation, and said winning the award was an acknowledgement of the organisation’s impact on a global scale.

“The Wheen Bee Foundation was founded in 2009 with the aim to draw attention to the essential role bees play in food systems and the environment,” Ms Chambers said.

“To be recognised on the global stage is an acknowledgement of everything we’ve achieved in such a short time.”

The Golden Bee Award is an initiative of the Government of Slovenia, a country with more beekeepers per capita than any other country, and the birthplace of World Bee Day, which was designated as 20 May by the United Nations in 2017.

The Golden Bee Award was launched in 2021 for the protection of bees and the recognition of the role of bees and other pollinators in ensuring food security, sustainable agriculture, nature conservation, biodiversity and cultural heritage. The award recognises outstanding achievements in bee research, promotion and preservation.

Ms Chambers was presented the award by the President of Slovenia Nataša Pirc Musar and the Agriculture Minister of Slovenia Mateja Čalušić. This is the first time an Australian organisation has won the Golden Bee Award.

The Wheen Bee Foundation was founded by beekeeper and bee genetics researcher Gretchen Wheen and is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of bees and other pollinators and the role they play in food production, biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Ms Chambers says the Foundation’s notable impact is due to its inclusive nature, working across both environmental and agricultural needs, incorporating honey bees, native bees and other pollinators in its programs.

“Some organisations choose to support honey bees or native bees, but we find real impact can be achieved when you take a more holistic approach,” Ms Chambers said.

“Whether you’re talking about honey bees, native bees or other pollinators, the solutions are the same. Increasing floral resource availability, increasing habitat, minimising chemical use … these actions are beneficial for all pollinators.”

Ms Chambers says the same approach works when it comes to managing the needs of the environment and agriculture.

“It is important to move away from this idea that agriculture is the biggest threat to the environment, when it also has the opportunity to be part of the solution.

“We want to support everyone, whether that’s farmers, backyard gardeners or inner-city residents, to take steps to support all pollinators.”

Ms Chambers says the Golden Bee Award isn’t just about celebrating past achievements but about looking to the future to increase the Foundation’s long-term impact.

“As a charity, we rely on donations to continue our work,” Ms Chambers says. “This award will increase the recognition here in Australia of the global importance of the work being undertaken by the Wheen Bee Foundation.”

Watch a recording of the awards ceremony here.

About the Golden Bee Award

The Golden Bee is the world’s highest award for the protection of bees and the recognition of the role of bees and other pollinators in ensuring food security, sustainable agriculture, nature conservation, biodiversity and cultural heritage.

The award promotes and supports the innovation and excellence of individuals or oranisations who have made a significant contribution to protecting bees and other pollinators and raising awareness of their importance around the globe. It also encourages further activities in relation to the work and outstanding achievements in these areas.

Past winners: Prof. Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi from Argentina received the first award in 2021 for the promotion of bees and other pollinators. President of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association Boštjan Noč received the award in 2022 for the preservation of bees and other pollinators, while Serbian scientist David Davidović received the award in 2023 for research on bees and other pollinators.

About the Wheen Bee Foundation

The Wheen Bee Foundation runs multiple programs and projects that promote awareness and address the national and global threats to bees.

Key programs include World Bee Day Australia (Australian Secretariat), Australian Pollinator Week, the Australian Pollinator Count, the Centre for Bee Education in conjunction with Bee School by Beechworth Honey, Carman’s Trees for Bees Community Tree Grants, the Green Carpenter Bee Conservation Project and the Linton Briggs Advancing Apiculture Program.

The Foundation’s Powerful Pollinators Planting Guides program has seen the development of 33 bioregional planting guides in seven states and territories.

The Foundation also manages Bee Friendly Farming Australia, which helps farmers and land managers take steps to protect, preserve and promote bees and other pollinators on farmland.

Two tree grants programs have seen plantings across the country to benefit pollinators, including 40,000ha under the Bee Friendly Farming Tree Grants and plantings of trees and shrubs as part of the Carman’s Trees for Bees Community Tree Grants.

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