Now, Today's topic looks at Covid19 and its impact on us as beekeepers and food businesses.
Looking firstly at us as beekeepers, then food systems and foods dependant on bees, and finally honey as a food.
Advice for beekeepers, now, we should continue to care for our bees as normal as possible in a way that we don't compromise the welfare of our bees.
And we should maintain good biosecurity at our apiary's.
While many diseases can be introduced to your hives by bees themselves, good apiary and hive hygiene can reduce the impact of disease and will help to minimize the risk of disease transmission between colonies and apiaries in the case of Covid19.
These hygienic practices should extend to cover hives, frames, equipment, and clothing, as well as the apiary itself.
So we shouldn't share beekeeping equipment with other beekeepers, particularly hive tools, other handheld devices, and protective clothing – also ensuring that they are cleaned regularly and effectively.
All this is in line with the general advice on COVID-19, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and hot water before and after you come into contact with any animals.
There are currently no restrictions on movements of bee colonies that you are managing, such as moving bees to fulfill pollination contracts. However, you should observe the public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, when carrying out these activities. That's including social distancing and essential travel.
Imports of bees are still permitted. There is no evidence to support restrictions on the international movement or trade-in bees. And in the UK I know there are no additional rules for bee imports concerning COVID-19.
Husbandry techniques should ideally be used to minimize swarming, yet should you need to respond to collect a swarm, you should again follow the guidelines on social distancing when collecting the swarm. If that is not possible, then the swarm should not be collected.
Therefore trying to prevent swarms is the best approach.
Agriculture is considered an essential work. Yet farmers still need to adhere to social-distancing requirements. But they can also be affected by other regulations and changes along the food supply chain, such as the closing of restaurants.
Some farm work can easily continue with little interruption. For example, many U.S. farmers producing staple crops, such as wheat and rice, do so with minimal human-to-human contact and fall in line with guidelines for limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
The International Food Policy Research Institute reported that COVID-19 does not currently pose a significant threat to overall global food security as adequate stores of staple foods remain available.
But higher-value and more specialized crops face greater issues.
Such as some fruits and organic produce is grown by smaller farms, which generally require more labor. And are also often sold directly to restaurants and farmers markets, many of which are now closed or have reduced service. So even if these farmers are able to continue working, they may have limited places to sell their goods. Therefore higher-value goods are also more likely to experience a price increase caused by COVID-19 disruptions.
If we look at Maine as an example, growers of blueberries, import 50,000 beehives annually, for the spring bloom. As Blueberries rely heavily on bees for pollination, because their narrow flowers are not well adapted for wind pollination, and native bee populations are not large enough to support the state’s 3,800 acres. Blueberry growers rent honey bees to boost their yields as do growers of almonds California.
As transporting of these hives requires special training, if a driver falls ill with COVID-19, beekeepers could struggle to get their bees on site. Without these bees, yields would take a severe hit. For example, a single hive can increase blueberry yields by up to 1,000 pounds in weight.
As COVID-19 leads to widespread income losses, fewer consumers may be able to afford these specialized or high-value products, including organic vegetables.
Also, if additional environmental stressors do arise this season, such as flooding or drought, then this industry will become more vulnerable, and this all adds up to a much more challenging season.
There are currently no reported cases of COVID-19 being linked to contamination of food or its ingredients. And the main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people.
Even if surfaces or packaging have been contaminated, the virus will only survive on such surfaces for a short period. Current information states that the virus could survive up to (3 days) on hard surfaces depending on the material. However, the number of the virus will considerably reduce over that time as it dies off.
The advice to food businesses is to maintain good hygiene practices as simple household disinfectants can kill it. And so will thorough cooking.
Yet, infected workers can introduce the virus to the food they are working on, or onto surfaces, by coughing and sneezing, or hand contact.
So businesses should ensure that staff should not work if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19. And that all workers strictly follow good personal hygiene practices to prevent contamination through food processing.
While honey can easily get contaminated during the process of its production by bees, microorganisms also get introduced into honey by us during harvesting and processing. This also includes the use of equipment, containers, and even wind and dust, yet the status of these microorganisms found in honey remains dormant.
It is only the spore-forming microorganisms that survive in honey by remaining dormant i.e., being suspended without growth. Non-spore forming bacteria i.e., vegetative forms are not normally present in honey, because they cannot survive. This is because of its low moisture content and high acidity.
Making Honey one of the safest, most shelf-stable food products you can eat.
Raw, or pasteurized honey,
Raw straight comes from the hive and contains everything. With the filtration of raw honey, impurities like debris and air bubbles are removed, so that the honey stays as a clear liquid for longer.
Pasteurized honey, where honey has been heated to 71°C (160°F) and quickly cooled, improves the honey’s appearance, increases its shelf-life, and also kills any yeast cells, preventing fermentation. It can also decrease the nutritional value of honey too.
Unlike milk and juice, honey is not pasteurized for solely food safety reasons but, rather, for quality purposes.