Angelina Jolie Takes One for the Bees and Women in Beekeeping

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

Angelina Jolie appeared in a portrait for National Geographic on World Bee Day (May 20) to raise awareness for the need to protect bees and for a UNESCO-Guerlain program that trains women as beekeeper-entrepreneurs, Women for Bees “Polinators are extremely important to our life and our environment and we have to understand, scientifically, what happens if we lose them,” she said in an interview with editor Indira Lakshmanan. Jolie is committed to restoring bee populations and helping with the other environmental concerns that the bees affect. “With so much we are worried about around the world and so many people feeling overwhelmed with bad news,” Jolie told National Geographic, “this is one [problem] that we can manage.”

Why this Matters:  Jolie’s right. Three out of every four leading food crops for human consumption depend on pollinators — from fruit, nuts, and vegetables to alfalfa for cattle feed— all in all, honeybees created $20 billion in crop production for the United States. But bee populations have collapsed in the last decade due to pesticides, parasitic varroa mites, dwindling native habitats due to large-scale commercial monoculture, and climate change. Half a dozen native U.S. bee species are on the Endangered Species list.  And it’s another reason why the effort to conserve 30% of the planet by 2030 is so vital.

Queen Bee Jolie

Jolie has been named “godmother” of Women for Bees, a program in which 50 women beekeeper-entrepreneurs in 25 UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves around the world. These women will build 2,500 native beehives by 2025 to house 125 million bees, in Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, France, Russia, Rwanda, and Slovenia.

This program also aims to highlight and protect local beekeeping practices. For example, the Xishuangbanna Biosphere Reserve in China, beekeepers use log hives made of fallen trees covered with cow dung to protect bees from the cold, while in Cambodia, beekeepers place colonies on inclined branches so that they can harvest honey without disturbing the bees.

In June, Jolie will join the program — 10 Women for Bees — and will participate in an accelerated 30-day training led by experts at the French Observatory of Apidology in Provence, where she plans to get trained in beekeeping as well. 

Jolie told National Geographic: “I know it seems like I’m now working on bees, but really, to me, the bee and the pollination and the respect for the environment, it’s all interconnected to women’s livelihoods, [and to] displacement from climate change.”

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