Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadian Beekeeping
Bixby MEF, Polinsky M, Scarlett R, Higo H, Common J, Foster LJ, Zayed A, Hoover SE, Guarna MM. (2021) Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadian Beekeeping. Entomology 2021, 69th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, 31 Oct - 03 Nov, Denver, CO, hybrid meeting proceedings
The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the Canadian beekeeping sector. When the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic on March 11th, beekeepers were in the middle of a critical period for temporary foreign worker arrivals for the 2020 beekeeping season. Canadian border restrictions and reduced flights began to cause delays and cancellations of worker arrivals on March 18th. In addition, importation of queen bees and bee packages transported on commercial flights were delayed or cancelled. In 2020, imports of bee packages were down to just over 13,000 (67% reduction) and the number of imported queens fell by approximately 22,000 (10%) with a 15% decrease in queen imports during the critical spring months resulting in less time for colony build up, fewer strong colonies to fulfill early pollination contracts, and reduced overall productivity. In addition, in a survey of over 200 respondents, Canadian beekeepers reported challenges due to the implementation of new occupational health and safety protocols, as well as material and equipment accessibility issues. As COVID-19 disruptions from 2020 and into 2021 become more significant to long-term colony health and more costly to a beekeeping operation, economic losses could threaten the industry’s viability as well as the sustainability of pollination-dependent crop sectors across the country. The economic and agricultural impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic have exposed a vulnerability within Canada’s beekeeping industry stemming from our dependency on imported labour and bees and has highlighted the need to strengthen domestic supply chains to minimize future risks.