Right now, wildfires are decimating much of California, Oregon and Washington. This strain is conflated with the Coronavirus pandemic, which many of us hoped would be winding down by now, still raging in many states.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat and forage are burning, along with homes, businesses and hives. It can be difficult to think about the devastating losses experienced by our friends, family and in many cases ourselves. While the future is uncertain for many, PAm’s thoughts are with everyone being affected. You can learn more about what the outlook is for native bees after a fire, and what scientists know about how honey bees act in a smoke-filled environment from this article from Oregon State University.
On Sunday, September 13th Foothills Honey Farms was working hard to remove colonies from evacuation zones in Oregon where they are in danger from the Beachie Creek and Riverside Fires. Some beekeeping operations have already lost their homes and businesses to fires*, and many more have lost colonies and equipment.
“The piles of ashes used to be beehives. How the lucky ones survived, I do not know – the whole area went up like a torch. This was actually much better than I was expecting” – Joe Hansen
In response to the fires in California, PAm is putting our Seeds for Bees program to work in new ways connecting with beekeepers and growers to provide seeds and put some forage back on the landscape quickly. In areas where native habitat restoration is not a goal, Seeds for Bees seed mixes can provide high quality pollinator nutrition quickly to preserve soil and help honey bees and other pollinators make it through until natural habitat rebounds or is restored. Although this may be small consolation for the fire destruction, bees are our example of how collective efforts can add up.
Researchers are also being affected by these circumstances-shifting field seasons and lab schedules to promote social distancing. (COLOSS recently published a survey about the global impact of COVID on bee research that you can Read Here.) Some PAm-funded projects have been put on hold or extended due to COVID-19 safety rules, and other researchers are working from home and doing what they can to make progress until conditions improve. Because of our organizational structure and personal approach, PAm is proud that we can take an individualized approach for each of our grants, increasing flexibility and timelines where needed in response to COVID-19. Bee research is important, our researchers are committed and so are we- supporting them however we can.
COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions have changed the way many businesses and individuals work, and the beekeeping industry is no exception. Commercial beekeepers have had to change management practices to keep employees safe, and it is more difficult to find workers. The American Honey Producers Association recently moved their annual conference to a virtual format, while the American Beekeeping Federation postponed their annual conference until 2022. Many smaller beekeeping clubs and associations have also moved meetings online. PAm is exploring how to connect with beekeepers during this dearth of in person contact-and it’s true that these shifts can sometimes come with benefits – learning new technology and getting used to communicating online over distance helps us stay connected and be creative with our resources.
This summer PAm has continued to fund bee health solutions – here are a few of the things we have been up to:
We won’t know the full effects of the fires or COVID-19 on bees, beekeepers and pollination until after the worst is over. One thing that we do know is that despite Varroa, CCD, habitat loss, and honey declines, bees and beekeepers have proven to be resilient! As beekeepers must be extra tough and determined this year, so must we be at PAm – after all, our job is to support beekeepers, and they set a high bar. So we put on our masks (for the virus and the smoke) and carry on.
We would love to hear how you are weathering the storm. Every beekeeper’s story is important. Contact us to tell us your stories, and stay tuned to our eNews for invitations to Project Apis m. “Hiveside Chats” – an opportunity to talk directly to PAm staff and board members, and upcoming webinars with honey bee researchers, forage experts and more.