Some Problems with 1293

My name is Ryan Giesecke. I am a Texas Beekeepers Association member, active in my local associations, and a participant in the Texas Master Beekeeper Program. I run around 50 hives in the Dallas area, do a lot of educational work pertaining to bees and beekeeping, and perform live bee removals as well.

I strongly oppose HB1293 for the following reasons, addressed in greater detail below:
-it sets a pest threshold of zero (mites, hive beetles, etc) for hives to pass TAIS inspections
-it places Texas native bee species under TAIS jurisdiction and subject to destruction
-it mandates fee-based annual registration of beekeepers
-it mandates fee-based annual inspections of apiaries for queen-rearers
-it allows for any manner of state-wide mandated pest treatments
-it extends TAIS regulatory power from applying to a single bee species to encompassing thousands

Detailed Objections:
1) Healthy hives will be unable to reliably pass inspections.  Section 131.025 defines “reportable pests” as being based on a listing by the chief apiary inspector, but “pests” are defined in Section 131.001 Subdivision 12-B as “an insect, mite, or organism that causes damage or abnormality to bees and that is considered deleterious by the chief apiary inspector.” Section 131.044 on inspections refers to “pests” rather than “reportable pests”.  Since Section 131.044 requires that “no disease, pest, or unwanted species of bee” be found in the bees in order to pass an inspection, this sets an acceptable mite threshold of zero.  A modern IPM approach to mite control works off of an “economic threshold” acceptable mite count.  This approach to mite control, recommended by TAIS, TBA, and the A&M Honey Bee Lab, would prevent a hive from passing inspection if HB 1293 is approved and enforced as written.

2) Section 131.001 Subdivision 17 allows for the listing of “Unwanted species of bees” by species.  The desired target stated by the committee responsible for this bill (via the TBA Facebook) was Apis mellifera capensis, a subspecies of Apis mellifera.  To add A. m. capensis to the unwanted species list by species the chief apiary inspector would need to list “Apis mellifera”.  Subdivision 17 does not allow for the listing of subspecies, which would prevent the listing of the targeted A. m. capensis as unwanted.  It does, however, specifically allow the listing of non-Apis species, which theoretically allows the chief apiary inspector to list hundreds of Texas native bee species as apiculturally undesirable, suddenly putting them under TAIS jurisdiction and subject to eradication (Section 131.021).  One could point to diseases in our native bee population which could conceivably cross into our honey bee population as a reason for such actions; theoretically any bee that competes with Apis mellifera for nectar and pollen resources could be defensibly deemed deleterious to apiculture.  Common sense would imply that no chief apiary inspector would take such a stance, but none-the-less the bill as written allows for it.  All it would take is one government official leaving common sense behind; I’m not sure that never happens.  Mark will not always be the chief apiary inspector, and this bill should be written to protect against the possibility of someone unreasonable as his successor. Legal regulation should be written in a way that deals with situations where common sense has failed; it should not depend on common sense in order to be functional.

3) Registration is mandatory for a 25+ hive beekeeper (Section 131.045).  I have registered, but am opposed to mandatory registration for a stationary operation at any scale.  To the best of my knowledge no other form of agricultural animal husbandry other than fish farming in the state of Texas mandates registration with the state.  I don’t know why this should start now.  What problem is resolved by mandated registration over 25 hives?

4) Inspections are mandatory for someone selling 25+ queens (Section 131.023).  TBA says this in the name of preventing spread of pests and diseases.  Yet it seems there are no pest and disease problems which are primarily transmitted via queen cages; I have asked TAIS about documented instances of queen cages as a problematic vector for pests or disease without receiving any such documented examples. I have asked people on the TBA committee who told me that they are not aware of issues transmitted by queen cages, that these regulations are to address as-yet-unknown issues that may conceivably arise some day in the future.  It is regulation justified by the need to solve a non-existent problem. Under the current Section 131 inspections are not a requirement for selling queens. Furthermore, an entire package (complete with queen cage) coming in across state lines doesn’t need a certificate of inspection, but I need one to sell more than 25 queens to my neighbors.  This is regulation against the spread of disease that is applied against transactions within a county, but is not applied to transactions which cross state lines.
Of course inspections have to be done before you start selling, so as a small-scale sideliner you may spend money on inspections to sell queens and end up selling less than 25.  As a newcomer to queen rearing you may just be paying for the privilege of trying.  This is another obstacle to a small-scale beekeeper wanting to get into queen-rearing which serves no practical purpose aside from being that obstacle. These are regulations that widen the gap between small-scale and commercial beekeeping in a way that handicaps newcomers and small-scale sideliners considerably.

5) Allows for mandated state-wide pest and disease treatments.  Section 131.021, “may adopt rules and act as necessary to control, eradicate, or prevent the introduction, spread, or dissemination of diseases, pests, or unwanted species of bees”.  With so much evidence in favor of genetic resistance resulting from selective breeding and non-treatment I am thoroughly opposed to any path towards mandated treatments. This is an out-dated remnant of the days of legislation to control the spread of American Foulbrood. This is the sort of relic this bill should have been limiting rather than expanding upon.

6) Even if Section 131.001 Subdivision 17 did allow for defining a subspecies (ex. A. m. capensis) as an unwanted bee I am uncomfortable with the idea that checking for it is part of an inspection by TAIS (Section 131.044 c).  This would involve genetic testing if done properly, and I see no reason why I should be required to pay for genetic testing to this effect as part of the cost of a routine inspection (which would significant exacerbate the cost issues detailed above).  Aside from the cost-prohibitive nature of genetic testing, my understanding is that A&M Honey Bee Lab is the only testing facility in the state for subspecies genetics, and that they currently require a sacrificial queen in order to perform testing for A. m. scutellata genetics.  I do not believe they offer testing for A. m. capensis at all.  Is a sacrificial queen intended to become part of a standard TAIS inspection?  Is the Honey Bee Lab going to start providing testing for A.m. capensis genetics?  If unwanted subspecies are the target of the Subdivision on unwanted bee species this legislation needs to reflect that, and it needs to take enforcement into account.  Unenforced and unenforceable aspects of 131 are the primary reason it is in need of an update to begin with, and we are better off with an outdated bill in need of revision than a freshly updated Section 131 that is equally in need of revision.

7) The extension of the Texas Apiary Inspection Service’s authority to encompass non-Apis species (Section 131.001 Subdivision 17) is a huge over-step.  TAIS is by definition responsible for the regulation of “apiaries” and “apiculture” (places where honey bees are kept and the keeping of honey bees), and I see no benefit, and many potential drawbacks, to having them theoretically responsible for any of thousands of species of bees that are not honey bees.  HB 1293 gives the TAIS the authority to declare unwanted, and in turn to destroy, non-Apis bee species.  TAIS was not established for this purpose, has never existed for this purpose, and should not be given the authority to theoretically eradicate (Section 131.021) native bee species for being detrimental to apiculture. All that aside, this is a three-person office responsible for enforcement throughout the state… TAIS can’t realistically hope to enforce most of the current regulation, and this bill expands their duties considerably.

8) If unwanted subspecies are the goal of the “Unwanted species of bee” addition, and the concerns in all previously listed objections are resolved such that subspecies can be listed, then my concern becomes Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) and other subspecies genetics that are potentially constructive in breeding programs but may be viewed as undesirable by some.  Certainly Apis mellifera scutellata genetics are in many strong, survivor-stock hives throughout the state.  I just heard Dr. Rangel give a talk which addressed that this is to some degree true, and even specifically addressed “gentle Africanized Honey Bees” in management.  Yet in the eyes of most of the public, and the eyes of many beekeepers, this is a subspecies that is viewed as “deleterious”.  It is not at all unreasonable to foresee a future where the chief apiary inspector could suddenly find him or herself under tremendous pressure to list A. m. scutellata as undesirable.  I am uncomfortable with the idea of selective open-mated breeding programs for survivor stock being unable to pass routine inspections, or even being subject to being eradicated (Section 131.021), if A. m. scutellata were to be listed as an “undesirable subspecies of bee”.  Providing for the listing of subspecies as undesirable could potentially in a very short period undo decades of selective breeding for good survivor stock in Texas.  African subspecies aside, this could also theoretically be used to mandate queen purchases from a certain breeding operation by listing other subspecies.  All these scenarios may seem unlikely, but they are allowable and defensible under the wording of HB1293, if subspecies are allowed to be listed as unwanted.

15 thoughts on “Some Problems with 1293”

  1. Ryan, thanks for the info. I am also worried about pests moving under the blanket of TAIS. Every hive in Texas has mites. We use IPM techniques to manage them, so I don’t want the Chief Inspector to have the authority to destroy all our hives. We’re joining the fight from Houston!

    1. They already require you to report *any* mites, disease, etc in your hives. This does not happen and TAIS does not want it to happen as they don’t have the staff to handle it and no good purpose would be served.

      Laws are generally not made to be very specific because then they require constant change by a legislature that meets every other year. Much is always put to the discretion of the regulatory agency with administrative and judicial checks and balances. That is what this new bill does.

      It fixes many of the problems with the old law. It may need tweaks (and the main complaints would be easily fixed with minor tweaks), but it is substantially better than the old law. And, since most beekeepers fit under the <25 hives rule, it exempts most beekeepers from most of the law where the old law did not.

      1. Richard,
        My take on your comment is you’re saying we’re relying on non-enforcement of the current law to be replaced by non-enforcement of the amended law?

        Sounds like a great plan to me. Especially since HB1293 allows only pest free colonies to be sold. The Chief Apiary inspector has told me there are no mite free colonies in Texas. So I hope we can rely on his integrity to not follow the law.
        Hmmmm. Integrity not to follow the law?

        I agree many of the complaints can be fixed with minor tweaks.
        Some TBA board members have told me TBA is not open to making minor tweaks on a bill they never put before the general membership.

        1. I don’t think I’ve id I believe we should ignore the law as it would be after HB1293. I believe the old law *is* ignored where it is not practical and this set of changes largely fixes that by making a practical list of problems which rise to a level which requires regulatory action. Certainly, some kinds of mites might make it to that list, but Varroa will not currently. It would not be practical and Mark said something to that effect at the meeting.

          You are creating strawmen, admitting the current Inspector would handle them in a way we both would approve, then postulating some future evil Inspector would not. This bill adds administrative review that is not there now and we always have judicial and legislative action to handle abuses. If any Inspector were to make a regulation that got the majority of beekeepers up in arms, those avenues would be very active.

          The only place I see something to complain about is the registration requirements for >25 hives and I tend to see that as a good thing where the fees are relatively low. Commercial beekeepers, sellers of nucs, and commercial queen breeders already get inspected. This bill also gets rid of the trans-county permits and their fees. There is much to like in the bill and much to dislike in the law.

          Perfection is the enemy of good enough. We don’t need a perfect bill. We need a better bill. And next session, after living under the new law, we can better see how to make it even better.

          1. tweak to reportable or add words that say all reporting of pests/etc is meant to be reportable pests as defined.

          2. We’d have to ignore the law as it would be after 1293 for anyone with mites in their hives to pass inspections. Read 1293 for a moment without assuming it means what the committee meant for it to mean.

            (12-b) “Pest” means an insect, mite, or organism that causes damage or abnormality to bees and that is considered deleterious by the chief apiary inspector.

            (c) If no disease, pest, or unwanted species of bee is found in the bees, equipment, pollen, or honey, the inspector shall certify in writing that the bees, equipment, pollen, or honey is apparently free from disease, pests, and unwanted species of bees.

            Richard, are you actually able to tell me with a straight face that a Varroa mite is not a pest? That they are not a mite that causes damage to bees? Using the word “deleterious” both places doesn’t make “pest” and “reportable pest” legal synonyms. This is not about some future hypothetical evil inspector… it is a clear-cut issue with the way this bill is worded. Our current inspector could not give a hive with Varroa or small hive beetles in it a passing inspection without: 1) ignoring the way this is written, or 2) not inspecting it. Admittedly, some of my concerns are illustrated by means of a future hypothetical CAI where the only other means of illustrating them would be to call the current CAI a liar. But surely you realize that “what would Mark do?” isn’t a sufficient test of what regulatory safeguards 131 should provide.

            Review of CAI decisions is needed, but it needs to be review by people who know and understand the beekeeping industry inside and out. And it needs to apply to something other than just quarantines… reportable pest listings, as just one example.

            Commercial beekeepers, sellers of nucs, and commercial queen breeders are not required to be inspected under the current 131.

            I do agree with you on the permits for moving hives between counties. Repealing that solves a problem created by the existing 131. I’ll even admit that I like the educational mandate for TAIS because it keeps the Master Beekeeper Program afloat. So let’s call that two problems solved, in nine pages of bill with numerous problems created along the way. I can’t disagree with your wording… “We need a better bill.”

          3. Hey Richard,
            I would ask everyone take a look at HB1293 Sections 10 & 14.
            Those sections amend 131.023 & 131.044 regarding Certificates of Inspection, colony, package & queen sales.

            It’s those sections that the current CAI will have to not enforce if HB1293 is adopted if colonies, package bees & queens are continued to be sold in Texas.

            Currently, Certificates of Inspection are optional. Under HB1293, Certificates of Inspection become mandatory. Since the wording of those sections affected don’t make use of the new “reportable pests” definition, no colony in Texas can be sold, imported or exported if the law is followed.

            It’s evident that great pains were taken to create the two tier definition of pests to make the law workable, but unfortunately where it counted somebody dropped the ball. Probably because something was lost in translation between TBA and legislative counsel.

            All the best,
            Bruce

      2. Richard,
        First, thanks for contributing to the discussion here. I agree that TAIS and Texas beekeepers work around the problems in the current 131 by simply ignoring the problematic aspects of it. I don’t agree, however, that a new version of the law should simply be written with the same problems and count on everybody to continue to ignore what the law says. If you really believe that is a workable approach then why update 131 at all? Laws may sometimes be written in broad terms to allow for flexibility over the years, but that’s not the same thing as writing them with the assumption that it won’t matter what’s written. If TAIS doesn’t want to fail people on inspections for mites this bill needs to be written in a way that says that, or at least doesn’t say the opposite, right?

        I would love to hear specifically what real existing present-day problems you think this bill fixes; not just problems with the old 131 (which we’ve agreed are ignored anyway), but problems in the real world. I’m not saying there aren’t any; but it would help our discussion here if we all provided specifics. I think this bill creates at least as many problems as it solves, and I’ve listed some of them above. I hear lots of people who support this bill saying it’s better than the old law, but it would help us communicate if you would say why.

        Maybe changes/tweaks to 1293 to fix the problems with it are an option… but I recently heard TBA tell us at the delegates meeting that there is not time to make amendments due to the risk of the bill not happening this session if amended. Interestingly enough, sources in Austin tell us there’s time for amendments, especially if TBA would cooperate with their membership to make them.

        The new bill does exempt people with less than 25 hives from some things, most notably from mandated registrations that are not required of anyone under the existing 131. The bill also exempts people who sell less than 25 hives from inspections, which are also not required to sell bees under the existing 131. So good, the bill solves some of the problems that it creates for some of the people it creates them for. I’m not convinced that makes it a good bill.

  2. Thank you for informing me on the issue! As a small scale beekeeper in Austin I had no idea it was even up for discussion!

  3. I am not a beekeeper but have considered this in my future retirement years. This is another method of government control which will put the small businesses out of business. Our many fruits and vegetables will be endangered by the potential destruction of hives unessacarily. We are cattle ranchers and fight the same battles.

  4. I agree with most if not all of the previous comments but I’d like to raise a slightly different issue. Can anyone justify the existence of the Apiary Inspection Service. They were ineffective in regards to foulbrood, mites and hive beetles. Nature runs it’s course whether we like it or not. The wild bees adapted to each problem while humans got in the way and delayed the managed bees ability to adapt. The Apiary Inspection Service does not have the ability to prevent pests and diseases to travel. It seems to me the The Apiary Inspection Service is a hole in the ground that our tax dollars get poured down.

  5. Its a mite and beatle witch hunt every hive that shows one pest will be burned. Even ferile hives. None will pass inspection. WHo ever thought this up was not a beekeeper I garantee you.

    1. On the contrary. I was their and we were all beekeepers coming from every size and area of the state. We want only to improve the law and beekeeping. The parts of the proposed law people are quoting are mostly things that fell through the cracks and can be fixed with tweaks.

      Before jumping on a conspiracy bandwagon, try talking to the proponents and ask about areas with which you have problems.

  6. Ive contacted and written my reps, TBA board members, my club members and anyone else that will listen that HB1293 does not cover the health and well being of our bees. While still leaving terrible regs and lack of regs for the beeks that manage bee populations in our state. Ive been with the bees for over 50 years and the populations are nothing compared to the 60’s and 70’s.
    I support and want complete colony registration, more inspections and therefore more State Inspectors, better educational comunication, set fees and permitting fees and functions that go back into research and not general state fund, tougher out of state honey and pollinators bringing colonies into the state without regard to where they are located next to local apiaries, more support to hobbiests through inspections and education either by the state or county or state associations, approve and encourage more locally grown queens and drones that deal with pests and diseases and encourage through education why this is important.
    HB1293 should be written and passed for all bee species to be protected and help manage pests and diseases and also to be managed correctly and fairly as possible by their keepers, the beekeepers.
    The old 131 and the new 131 does not.

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