Mandatory Registration of Feral Bees?

Surely not, right?

HB 1293 effectively mandates annual beekeeper registration for anyone owning more than 400 acres. This is due to the definitions of “hive” and “colony”. Let me explain.

According to HB1293 a “Hive” means a container or structure used by a beekeeper to provide a cavity in which a colony of bees is expected to establish a permanent nest. So far, so good. It’s clear that the intention here is to prevent someone who has bees move into their wall from falling under the regulatory aspects of Chapter 131. If the rest of the bill was well-written it would do that.

But then we see that “Colony” means all of the bees living together as one social unit… without regard to whether they are in a container provided by a beekeeper for said purpose. And “Beekeeper” means a person who owns, leases, possesses, controls, or manages one or more colonies of bees. This means that despite the positive clarification of the word “hive” you are still legally a beekeeper if you possess bees living in your walls. You are technically subject to the same requirements, restrictions, and penalties that a person with “hives” is.

Now it’s easy to look at this and think that at least you’re not required to abide by the mandatory annual registrations and associated fees, right? Because nobody has 25 colonies of bees living in the walls of their home. But in fact under HB 1293 it no longer matters how many colonies are in any given location…. “A beekeeper with an annual average of fewer than 25 colonies or nuclei is exempt from mandatory registration”. What this means is that according to the wording of this bill, if you own enough property to have a cumulative 25 feral colonies of bees living on your properties you find yourself subject to mandatory annual registration forms and fees as a non-exempt beekeeper, and if you don’t do this you are theoretically subject to the penalties provided for a failure to register.

So how much property would that take? I heard Dr. Rangel from the Texas A&M Honey Bee Lab give a talk recently that addressed studies of feral bees in South Texas. The study (here) that she was referring to showed that feral bee hives were found at a density of about one hive per 15 acres. Based on this data, one might expect to find 25+ feral hives on any property larger than 400 acres. While we can safely assume this is extremely unlikely to be explored or enforced, it’s just another example of the way this bill is written… relying on TAIS to have the common sense to adjust for the fact that the bill is indistinctly worded and totally unenforceable on numerous levels.

Chapter 131 needs an update, but it needs an update that is carefully planned, carefully worded, & enforceable as written. Failure of common sense is what creates a need for regulation, so we should not be passing regulations written in such a way as to be dysfunctional without common sense.