HOW COVID AFFECTS POLLINATION

Predicting what’s in store for the next few months is a fool’s errand. And I’m just the fool for the job.

We’re about 3 months away from when the first truckloads of bees will start crossing into the California border. There’s no telling what our world will look like by then. We might have the virus under control. There might be a vaccine available to the masses. Or, everything could be much worse.


Lodging concerns

Though I don’t imagine beekeepers will have any issue delivering hives to growers, one thing that might come into play is hotel availability. Migratory beekeepers from all across the country flock to the Central Valley each February, and they need a place to hang their veils for the night.

In the early stages of the state’s lockdown, California launched programs to encourage hotels to provide housing for healthcare works and vulnerable populations. Hotels taking part in Project Roomkey or Locals First may not have as many rooms as usual to accommodate the increased demand during pollination.

Keep a close eye on updates from the county in which you plan to stay. Some counties are opening back up, while others (like Shasta and Riverside) are tightening restrictions. Also keep in mind that hotels might deny entry to guests who fail a temperature screening, so be sure to have a backup plan in place.

Staying healthy

Another obvious concern is the virus itself. During a normal pollination season, beekeepers are so busy they hardly find time to sleep. If even one worker gets sick, the crew will fall way behind on their bee work. Plus, since beekeepers work in teams, social distancing is nearly impossible. If one worker gets sick, they all get sick.

Beekeepers should take extreme caution when coordinating their plans, making sure to build in contingencies for when Plan A falls apart. Strongly advise your employees to quarantine and get tested at the end of January.

Growers should chat with their beekeepers to check that they have a solid plan. The main concern is making sure they have the capacity to work the bees on your orchard if their workers get sick. A secondary concern is making sure they’re able to remove the hives promptly after bloom.

Final thoughts

There’s no doubt this pollination season will be an interesting one. Regardless of your opinion on the virus, there’s a lot more at stake this year. The top priority for beekeepers is to keep crews healthy and get them back home safely. As for growers, try to be understanding. The goal is to have everyone back in action in 2022.

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