We are in the midst of a pandemic brought on by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that spreads via small droplets produced when talking, sneezing, or coughing. SARS-CoV-2 spreads very easily and quickly when people are in close contact. Governments around the world have responded by recommending and enforcing strict social-distancing guidelines. The state of Indiana is no exception. We currently have several thousand cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and since March have been under orders to maintain social distance.
There are exceptions to this requirement. For example, agricultural businesses, including beekeeping, are deemed ‘essential’ and may continue. This may sound like we can continue as usual. However, for our safety and that of our families, co-workers, employees, and communities we need to incorporate proven practices to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 into our everyday beekeeping activities.
If you are a beekeeper who will be managing colonies during the pandemic, please seriously consider the following recommendations:
- Stay up-to-date with the latest CDC guidelines for ways to reduce the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2.
- If you have been in contact with anyone who is sick and/or if you’re feeling sick, stay home for at least 14 days and ask a trusted beekeeper to manage the colonies in your absence.
- Do not purchase N95 face masks. Leave those for the health care professionals who need them most. Instead, consider making a simple cloth face mask.
Working in the field
- Wash hands often with soap and water. Maintain hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes in vehicles and use them often, especially if hand washing is not possible.
- Where possible, do not share vehicles.
- Maintain personal control over your equipment. Do not share hive tools, gloves, veils, etc. Keep your equipment separate and sterilize it in a weak bleach solution regularly.
- Establish a process for package deliveries to reduce social contact. Use gloves when taking the contents out of boxes and discard shipping boxes immediately.
- If you’re picking up or distributing queens or nucs, consider using a drive-through method or arrange specific pick-up times to reduce contact with other beekeepers. Consider using the ‘hockey stick’ approach to pass materials to beekeepers.
- Spread out critical colony work, in time and space, as much as possible. Add supers in a manner that ensures room for several weeks of nectar collection to help prevent swarming.
- If it is safe to do so, work your colonies alone or maintain social distance. Consider using a walkie-talkie, or cell phone to contact coworkers should you need assistance.
- If you have to work your colonies with other beekeepers, remember that beekeeping veils, suits, and gloves protect you from bees, they do NOT protect you against SARS-CoV-2. Wear a mask underneath your veil.
- While honey harvest is still several months away, it is likely that some social distancing measures will continue to be prudent. For those with many frames to process or those who work collaboratively to harvest honey, start thinking now about a plan that incorporates all the above recommendations.
- Do not participate in face-to-face meetings involving multiple people but if you must speak directly to a person, maintain the appropriate interpersonal distance of 6’ or 2 meters (social distancing). Consider alternatives to in-person meetings such as a conference or video call. There are many free options available to you including Facebook Messenger, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Jitsi.
Incorporating these strategies into your beekeeping practice will help reduce your risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2. Don’t just take our word for it. Check out additional recommendations from Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
Contributed by: Brock Harpur, Christian Krupke, Timothy Gibb, and Madeline Carpenter