The Netherlands’ Volunteer-Led Bee Census Finds a Steady Population

Pollinators face many threats, from habitat loss and fragmentation to certain pesticides. There are efforts across the world to promote a stable population of these needed creatures. The Dutch have approached the issue in a variety of ways, and it appears to be helping so far.

In late April, the Netherlands held its annual Bee Counting Day, or its Bee Census. During this national effort, people across the country count the bees in their gardens over a 30-minute period. This year, more than 11,000 people joined in, tallying a total of more than 200,000 bees.


Vincent Kalkman, entomologist at Naturalis, one of the organizations behind the census, says, “An average of 18 to 20 bees and hoverflies were recorded in each garden during the count. These numbers have remained steady over the years, indicating that there is no strong decline in urban gardens.”

According to the official tally, there were more than 55,000 honey bees counted, nearly 13,000 red mason bees, nearly 13,000 earth bumblebees, and nearly 10,000 horned mason bees. The tally notes that there are 358 species in the Netherlands, 50% of which are endangered. However, events like this are bringing more awareness to the threats bees face and allowing concerned residents to do their part to help.

Koos Biesmeijer, scientific director and bee expert at Naturalis, says, “Everyone is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of wild bees and wants to commit themselves to it. The annual garden counts contribute to the research into wild bees in the Netherlands. It gives us new insight into, for example, the differences between regions, or the urban environment and the countryside. But in order to really be able to say something about this, we need to look more closely at the data in the coming weeks.”


Organizers behind the event also have some recommendations for the average bee-concerned person. Those include providing our winged friends with food, planting bee-friendly plants, creating nesting opportunities, and fighting the use of pesticides. Some of these more individual approaches seem to be catching on.

Biesmeijer explains, “Not only have municipalities improved their mowing policy, many garden owners have also paid more attention to a natural and bee-rich garden.”

Article continues below

Our Featured Programs

See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!

The Netherlands as a whole has also implemented more widespread measures as part of a national pollinator strategy. The effort was launched in 2018 in response to a decreasing wild bee population, stemming largely from agricultural land wiping out many wildflowers. More than 40 partners have signed on, producing 70 initiatives.

In Amsterdam, bee hotels have been put up. Those are a group of hollow plant stems or thin bamboo that provide a nesting place for bees. There have also been efforts to replace city grass with native flowering plants, as well as an end to chemical weed killer use on public lands.


Utrecht has joined in, as well, building more than 300 bee stops, which consist of bus stops with roofs covered in native plants. Another initiative is the Honey Highway, which aims to get wildflowers planted on the sides of highways, railways, and waterways.

Protect the Planet

Help preserve vital habitat at The Rainforest Site for free!