These days the world has been dealing with a large scale problem that, until recently, hasn’t been around for many years. We are dealing with an epidemic of COVID-19 caused by a new virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease started in Wuhan, the city in China’s Hubei province, and has since spread globally. What makes this virus dangerous is its long incubation period, which can be anywhere from 2 to 14 days. Since the virus spreads from person to person via respiratory droplets (produced when an infected person sneezes, talks, or coughs) and through physical contact, it is also highly infectious. The rapid spreading of this virus has resulted in countries taking many preventive measures in order to slow it down. These are affecting all areas of our society, and that includes beekeeping.
Agriculture is the basis of food production and as such, it is a life-sustaining business. Beekeepers support agriculture through pollination services provided by bees, which makes beekeeping an essential business.
If your country allows essential businesses to continue functioning, then you can continue with regular activities in the apiary. However, some general rules apply to every individual, which also includes beekeepers. You should follow Public Health guidance on social distancing, avoid gatherings of more than two people, and maintain a distance of 2 meters between yourself and others.
If you are a beekeeper who will be managing colonies during this time, please be responsible to avoid compromising your health and the health of others around you. Here are some recommendations that should help you out:
Care for your colonies properly, but avoid visiting them unless necessary. One of the things that can help you out in doing this is adding supers in a way that ensures the bees will have space for several weeks of nectar collection.
You probably saw a photo circling on the internet, about a couple of beekeepers going to the store in their beekeeping suits. Since it is recommended to wear face masks, you might be wondering if your beekeeping equipment might come in handy. The P100 respirator that you wear for oxalic acid vaporization is effective, but you might also scare away everyone you meet.
Try to minimize swarming. If you have to collect a swarm make sure to follow the guidelines on social distancing. However, if it’s not possible to stay safe then the swarm should not be collected. This relates to the point we talked about previously, about making sure that colonies have enough space in the hive. It is useful not only for limiting the need for apiary visits, but also to minimize swarming.
Avoid sharing beekeeping equipment with other beekeepers, especially handheld tools and protective clothing. If you cannot avoid using someone else’s tools, then make sure to disinfect them before and after use. Moreover, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and hot water before and after you do any work around bees.
If you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around someone who is sick, you should self-isolate and let a trusted friend handle your bees. Local beekeeping associations can be of great help and we suggest they consider how they can support those unable to care for their bees.
During this worldwide crisis, we realize the importance of being able to rely on our community. Many have already decided to help their community by delivering groceries and medicine to those unable to go outside either due to sickness or due to being in a high-risk population. We suggest helping our fellow beekeepers who are unable to visit their bees by taking care of their bees for them. The solidarity and willingness to help each other in difficult times are what make the community stronger. When people join forces amazing things can be achieved, so let’s make the best of this situation by helping each other. These difficult times are just the right time to show how strong is our beekeeping community!