While Albania has been on lockdown due to COVID-19, the country’s bees have been thriving.
Beekeeper Gezim Skermo told AFP that this year is shaping up to be a “golden year” for bees as factories and other industries fall silent. Skermo’s bee farm has some 300 hive boxes and is located at the base of the Morava mountains. It is one of the biggest in the country and is the only one that exports its honey abroad.
In 50 years of bee-keeping, Skermo said he has never seen a season like this. He called it “rebirth for nature and the bees.”
He has attributed the increase in productivity of his bees to the COVID-19 lockdown which put a stop to most industrial operations. It also severely limited the movement of the public. Skermo says this has brought cleaner air and less pesticide spraying from farmers who have been faced with economic uncertainty.
Skermo added: “This year we didn’t have any losses, unlike in previous years when we found dead bees in front of the hives. There was no noise, no pollution, nothing that could disturb them.”
The Morava bee farm produces between five and 15 tonnes of honey every year. Varieties include white clover, chestnut, wild thyme, and rapeseed, depending on which flowers are in season at any given time. The farm also collects and processes honey from beekeepers throughout the rest of the country- a total of some 360,000 registered hives.
Things are going so well this year that Skermo plans to do two harvests instead of one. This is a big improvement from 2016 and 2017 where 40% of Albanian hives collapsed at a loss of EUR 60 million. The epidemic was attributed to the varroa mite parasite who flourished due to increased deforestation in the country.
But right now, conditions are optimal. Skermo’s son Eugen said that bees are “real ecological sentinels” and provide advance warning of risks to the environment and ecosystem.
Skermo is unsure just how much honey they will collect this year but he is optimistic.
“While people have been shut up at home, the bees have not been confined,” he said. “They have been working very hard.”