In addition to the 2,100 people in China that have died from the novel coronavirus as of this week, China’s beekeeping industry is currently struggling to survive.

Local travel restrictions are making it impossible to buy feed for bee colonies, or to relocate the way one naturally would to a flower-rich area for natural feeding. In southern Yunnan province, one beekeeper reportedly killed himself after all his bees died of starvation, according to the Apicultural Science Association, which is China’s main beekeeping body.

Liu Decheng, the deceased beekeeper who owned over 100 beehives, knew that to prevent his bees from starving, he had to move his colonies to new nectar and pollen sources for nourishment, because most flowers were gone in Yunnan. Local flowers were not yielding sufficient nectar, and his attempts to buy feed and relocate the hives were all thwarted due to the local virus threat. Liu’s bees had been poisoned by pesticide. He just wanted his bees to find flowers, but he was prevented.

This short video, under 2 minutes long, shows a happier beekeeper in China even though this video was made in early January 2020:

There are strict restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles around regions of China, in an attempt to control the spread of the corona virus. Roads have been sealed off and approval for inter-regional travel must be requested. In some dire areas people have been confined to their homes and public spaces have been closed.   

Liu, who was 45 years old, had two children and was the main earner in his family of six living in Xichang, which is a small rural part of southwestern Sichuan province. His remains were found in an apiary, and there will be an investigation. Some fellow beekeepers are raising funds to help his family.

China’s central government has established a special green transport channel around February 15 so eligible “life necessities” such as bees, poultry, livestock and seafood can move a little more freely than being subjected to extreme epidemic containment controls. Apparently, some villages and towns are not abiding by this green transport channel policy and are holding hardline positions about people’s movements.

Beekeeping can be hard at the best of times, but now it is harder than ever in China. Some beekeepers think it is best to keep the bees in one place for now, even if it affects the quality of their honey.

We have blogged before about global problems caused by adulterated, cheap Chinese honey flooding western markets.

China has the world’s largest beekeeping industry, with over 9 million managed beehives. Chinese honey exports in 2018 were 542,500 tons.