Survey Kits Take Up Residence

A few short months ago, COVID-19 emerged and became a global threat creating a strong current of uncertainty and stress that swept us out to sea. We may not all be in the same boat, but we’re in the same ocean.

What I mean by that is, each one of us are dealing with different stressors, whether it’s on the front lines, fighting the terrible disease itself, or facing this new reality of self-quarantine.

My heart goes out to you. We all share in the pain and anxiety. We’re all trying to continue business as usual, but this situation is not normal. That means that every time we hit a roadblock we must step back and take a deep breath. But we are stronger and wiser now. Maybe we don’t have this figured out quite yet. But we will.

With regards to the National Honey Bee Survey, we had to rethink how we operate. Instead of working in our labs and offices at University of Maryland, we are now home-based. When stay at home orders were issued in our state, we were in the middle of building sampling kits for the 2020 survey year. I frantically filled my Subaru with as many boxes of supplies as I could and unloaded them all in the hallway of my home. I made the trip two more times and it still wasn’t enough.

So far, we have built and shipped 13 sampling kits out of the 38 that are needed. This month I will be working on building the remaining kits in my dining room. I set a goal to finish building and shipping them by the end of this month (May), and I intend to stick to that. If any of my state participants are reading this and want their kit pronto, contact me and I’ll make your kit sooner rather than later.

Oh, and we finally found the time to work on this domain (something we have been dreaming of creating since last fall), our new website dedicated specifically to the National Honey Bee Survey. We hope you like it. It’s still a work in progress, so please forgive us for any hiccups along the way.

As for our nation’s amazing, hard-working state apiary inspectors? I reached out to them too to see how they’re doing. Most, although not all, are considered essential workers within their states. This is because apiary inspection services are generally under the umbrella of agriculture, as honey bees are vital to our nation’s food supply. They have altered their behavior however, instead of close face-to-face conversations with beekeepers in the apiary they are maintaining social distancing, visiting bee yards alone and reporting their findings to the beekeepers by phone. Some inspectors can only go out to conduct American Foul Brood inspections or other equally important and vital tasks.

There are hive inspections taking place as I write this, state apiary inspectors out in the bee yards, taking National Honey Bee Survey samples. Since our lab is closed, they are holding on to all of the honey bee samples they take, until we reopen and I can instruct them on how to ship them to us. For some, this means storing ethanol preserved samples of honey bees in their own homes and storing fresh bees in their own freezers (probably next to the ice cream and frozen chicken nuggets). The survey would not function without all of you, you are the boots on the ground, the ones surveying the health of our nation’s honey bees, and although you may be out in the field alone, know that we are with you. You are the honey bee super heroes!

I work with smart, innovative, and bee-loving people. Because of this, the National Honey Bee Survey will go on. Although we may have to do things a little differently in 2020, we will still collect another year of important honey bee data.

A little native bee (an Andrena a.k.a. mining bee) on American Cranberry bush

One final note:
As I sit in my garden, a little native bee flits from one blossom to another, foraging for food to feed herself and her future young. I’m reminded of how resilient bees are. Although food is plentiful right now, they will search far and wide in times of dearth, stretching their foraging distance to the max. They will even feed on less-than-desirable plants if need be. Although it is driven by thousands of years of evolution and instinct, they aren’t afraid to venture far and try new things. Let’s all be like the bees and try something new.

Me? I’ve become a much better, adventurous cook and my family is reaping the benefits! Are you doing something new, starting your own vegetable garden or even just taking up an old hobby again? Perhaps you finally got around to painting a really cool design on your hive boxes. For my mother, she’s finally starting her very own backyard hive this spring.