The impact of the Coronavirus could not have been foreseen but the BBKA, SWHB and NBU are working hard to support their members.
We are confident younger members of the group will support older members or those confined through association with family etc. who are unwell by offering to check hives in out apiaries. Making sure they are upright, have food and the bees are flying could be very helpful. Please follow the Government guidelines, we are told to avoid social contact and unnecessary travel. If you yourself are or know someone who needs such assistance please can you make contact with us, emailing email@example.com in the first instance, and we will endeavour to arrange the appropriate action.
BBKA have contacted Defra for advice on the position of beekeepers visiting their bees if the country moves into a more intensive ‘lock down’. At the moment bees will be considered as livestock and can be tended accordingly but we are following Government advice and need to address possible future directions. They have also been in contact with the All Party Parliamentary Group and are writing to the Minister of Environment asking about the position of beekeepers visiting bees. The suggestion has also been made that should there be a sugar shortage, beekeepers have an allowance (as we believe they had in the war). This may seem extreme but we need to be thinking now, just in case.
There are actions that beekeepers can take to give their bees the best chance of survival and the most important is to feed them. Ensure they have plenty of food for any inclement weather, we can have snow in May and cold wet weather at any time may mean they starve. If you are concerned about visiting your bees put fondant above your supers, the bees will use it if they need it. If you do not have fondant then use syrup even if you have one or two supers on. The bees may move it to the supers which would mean you can’t sell it as honey but you will still have your bees and also food for the Autumn/Winter. We obviously do not know how long this severe situation will last.
The swarm collection service may need to operate differently from previous years but the collectors will be aware of the status at any one time and react accordingly.
The NBU (via Beebase) has also published the following:
“As beekeepers, please be aware of the following guidance when looking after your honeybees. Updates to this will be provided where necessary. You should keep informed with the latest guidance issued by the Government as it is subject to regular change.
Defra and the Government ask beekeepers to be responsible and to ensure that we continue good beekeeping practices, effective stock management and health checks whilst observing the Government’s guidance on COVID-19.
Follow Public Health guidance on social distancing. Everyone, including beekeepers, should avoid gatherings of more than two people and this includes at your apiary. You should maintain 2 metres between yourself and others to limit the spread of COVID-19.
General advice for beekeepers is as follows:
· Continue to work and care for your animals in the normal manner, as far as possible. You should not take measures that compromise the welfare of the animals in your care.
· Maintain good biosecurity at your apiary.
· Do not share beekeeping equipment with other beekeepers, particularly hive tools and other handheld devices and protective clothing.
· In line with the general advice on COVID-19, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and hot water before and after you come into contact with any animal. Use hand sanitiser if that’s all you have access to.
· There are currently no restrictions on the movements of bee colonies – for example, moving bees to fulfil pollination contracts. However, you should observe the public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when carrying out these activities, including the guidance on social distancing.
· If you are required to visit premises other than your own, you should familiarise yourself with the public health guidance on infection prevention and control and take measures to minimise the risks from contaminated surfaces.
· If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms of COVID19, however mild, you should be self-isolating at home and should not be visiting other premises. Ideally, another beekeeper should take on this duty wherever possible. We are suggesting that local associations consider how they can support those confined or unable to attend their bees at this difficult time for all of us.
· If your bees are due an inspection by a government inspector, you should be aware that this may be subject to a delay depending on available resources within the inspectorate.
· If your bees are due an inspection by a government inspector, and you are in a high-risk group, or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, you must let your inspector know ahead of the inspection. Arrangements will be made that will limit the chance of COVID-19 being spread. This may include the inspection proceeding without the beekeeper being present or delaying the inspection.
· For all inspections, 2 metre social distancing will be considered the minimum and so the beekeeper will not be able to stand at the hive side with the inspector while the inspection takes place.
· Imports of bees are still permitted. There is no evidence to support restrictions to international movement or trade in bees, and the UK has no additional rules for bee imports with respect to COVID-19.
· Report any suspicion of notifiable diseases or pests to the authorities in the usual way – please see the bee health page on gov.uk for further information.
· Use husbandry techniques to minimise swarming. If you must respond to collect a swarm you need to ensure that you use the guidelines on social distancing when collecting the swarm. If that is not possible, then the swarm then should not be collected.
Therefore, trying to prevent swarms is the best practice.”
We at SWHB would always recommend that you register your hives with the NBU (through Beebase). This will ensure that you receive direct notification of any issues that may occur in your neighbourhood, especially relevant with Asian Hornet sightings and notification of any diseases that may have been detected within your area. Registering is only by postcode so no one can actually identify the exact location of your hives, thereby aiding security, but does trigger the necessary notifications when appropriate. You can sign up at http://www.nationalbeeunit.com