US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — No pesticides, no noise, no pollution: Albanian bees are in great shape during the coronavirus crisis and the honey harvest promises to be unequaled.
“It is a golden year for bees, they are the only ones working full time”, rejoices Gëzim Skermo, beekeeper for half a century.
Three decades ago, in an idyllic nature in the depths of Albania, he founded a beekeeping farm at the foot of the Morava mountain. Today, the company of some 300 beehives is the only one in the small Balkan country to export its honey.
“During the pandemic, men are locked up in their homes but the bee did not remain confined,” continues the 68-year-old beekeeper. “She works better than ever because there is no noise or pollution, nothing bothers her.”
Restrictions on the coronavirus, which has killed around 30 people in Albania, have stopped road traffic. Because of the uncertainties about their outlets, the farmers did not work the fields and did not spread pesticides toxic to bees there.
“This year, we did not have any losses unlike previous years where we found dead bees in front of the hives”, says the beekeeper who has never “experienced such a season in 50 years in the business”.
– Magnet –
These pollinating insects, a centerpiece of the entire ecosystem, are therefore having a great time in this spring of health crisis.
The bees vibrate around the rows of multicolored beehives of the “Morava” farm in an incessant ballet between the trough where they get their water and the nectar collected from the surrounding flowers. In front of the entrance to each hive, the “guards” take care not to let intruders from other colonies enter.
The yellow acacia is in full bloom and beekeepers are soon awaiting that of white acacia, a bee magnet.
Depending on the year, the farm produces between five and fifteen tonnes of honey (acacia, white clover, pine, rapeseed, poultry, wild thyme and chestnut). She also collects dozens of tonnes of honey from beekeepers across Albania for processing.
By superstition, Gëzim Skermo refuses to give figures but it is certain that this year, the harvest will be abundant and of very high quality.
The combs are already full and the beekeepers plan to start harvesting earlier than planned, before the end of May, and even to make two harvests.
– “Sentinels” –
“The conditions are optimal for bees which are real ecological sentries”, explains Eugen Skermo, beekeeper like his father.
All the professionals remember the dramatic years 2016 and 2017. According to their national association, 40% of the hives had disappeared and the losses exceeded 60 million euros.
Specialists implicate an epidemic of the parasitic mite varroa favored by the vagaries of the weather or deforestation but also by the agricultural use of neonicotinoids.
These pesticides, which attack the nervous system of insects, have been banned since 2018 in several countries of the European Union.
The beekeeping farm will not have too much of its 2020 harvest to meet the demand which has increased among Albanian consumers attracted by a product considered good for health.
Each year, around 40 tonnes of honey are exported to the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and China.
But if the company has a certification laboratory offered by the EU, Morava is not allowed to export its honey to Europe because Albanian products of animal origin are prohibited there.
Albania has 360,000 officially registered hives, each producing on average more than 10 kg of honey.
“I hope the situation will change so that European markets can benefit from honey from Albania, which has a rich biodiversity and a long tradition in the production of natural honey,” said Ermal Benga, head of the laboratory.
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