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Italy: lockdown has benefitted Rome’s urban bees

Italy: lockdown has benefitted Rome’s urban bees

The lockdown in Italy’s capital city offered a unique opportunity for research of bees and their reaction to the changing environment. Even as Rome endured a recently ended two-month lockdown, some lucky bees residing in hives atop the special forestry unit of Italy’s carabinieri were thriving.

The traffic, pollution and noise have a great impact on bees. But all those effects in the sprawling city virtually stopped overnight in early March after a nationwide quarantine was ordered. In other words, this spring was wonderful for the city’s bees that had a field day.

For three years, members of the carabinieri have been tracking approximately 150,000 bees living in three hives on the roof. This spring, the researchers from the Italian Apiculture Federation (IAF) said that bees have been just happy.

“We see they’ve been more numerous and healthy, and those are indications of the nutrition they’ve been getting,” said Raffaele Cirone, IAF president and added with pleasure that the quality of the bees’ honey has visibly improved.

Honey’s quality improved significantly due to lockdown

The bee-studying project, managed by Lieutenant Colonel Nicola Giordano of the forestry and environment unit command, includes about 30 other groups in Italy’s capital sharing information about their bees. The data from the two-month quarantine period is expected to be ready by summer.

Tests show that the bees have been sampling 150 different flowers in the area, compared with the 100 varieties seen before the lockdown. Lack of air pollution means the bees have been able to smell the flowers that attract them from 2 kilometres away, double the normal distance, he said.

There are an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 hives in Rome, and the city’s bees were already happier than their comrades in the countryside, said Cirone, where bees must contend with toxic chemical products used in agricultural production.

Giordano said it was not incongruent for the carabinieri to be paying attention to the tiny, honey-making insects.

“It might seem strange but seeing as our institutional mission is the environment, to not take into account the bees, the pollinators, would mean we’re not paying attention to biological complexity which is fundamental to our planet,” Giordano said and added that making honey is not really the point. Now, the hives produce about 30 kilogrammes of honey, rather impressive result.