Communicating with Local Clubs about 1293

Monday evening, March 13th, I gave a presentation on HB 1293 to members of Metro Beekeepers Association in Fort Worth. In an effort to become well informed on the pros & cons of HB 1293, Metro had scheduled for Texas Beekeepers Association Area Director Roger Farr to present TBA’s case in support and for me to speak about Save Texas Beekeepers’ opposition. Unfortunately, I was the only speaker to actually attend.

A little background… Mr. Farr was chair of the TBA committee that wrote and submitted the proposals to the Texas Legislature that became HB 1293. In early February, just after bill introduction, I approached Mr. Farr with concerns about certain aspects of the bill and asked how we could work to address those concerns.  Although he admitted the bill might not be perfect, his response was that amendments were not an option; he told me I would have to either support it or oppose it as written.

In mid February, at the TBA winter “delegates” meeting at the Texas A&M Honey Bee Lab in Bryan, an attempt was again made to address concerns about HB 1293.  During that meeting Mr. Farr tried to dispel opposition by presenting a notable speech in which he seemed to draw parallels between the conflict over this bill and Cain and Abel, slavery, and WWII-era Europe. Needless to say, I was prepared for an interesting dialogue presenting back-to-back with Mr. Farr in Fort Worth.  Of course, life being life, what happened was the one thing I wasn’t prepared for at all.  TBA’s representative surprised us all by simply not showing up.

Keep in mind that Metro Beekeepers is a local club that is a member organization with TBA, with many members who are individual members of TBA as well. This was a room full of beekeepers wanting, expecting, and deserving an explanation from TBA about what has been done representing “all Texas beekeepers and local beekeeping associations,” according to the claim on the front of the TBA website.

As the only speaker on the topic that night I tried to present a balanced and factual picture of the situation. I am strongly opposed to HB 1293 as filed, but I’ve been a proud and enthusiastic member of TBA until this issue. I believe TBA is made up of good individuals who care about Texas beekeeping, and I said as much during my presentation.  As a TBA member I was put in the awkward position of attempting to reconcile what I believe are good intentions with a very unfortunate scenario, because underneath it all, the facts just don’t look good: TBA claims to represent all beekeepers in Texas, but the association hasn’t been communicating well even with its own members. TBA says it wants to do better at communicating with members, but Monday’s no-show was not at all indicative of that. I like and respect the TBA board, but that doesn’t help me understand or explain how this is being handled by the organization.

Judging from the responses on savetexasbeekeepers.org and social media sites, it seems many Texas beekeepers feel this way. People are not happy with the situation, and I understand why.  Conversing with attendees at Metro after my presentation was eye-opening. One member told me that he feels betrayed by TBA. One was asking for the names of the individuals on the TBA committee, saying that someone should have to answer for HB 1293. One man kept apologizing for getting passionate in discussion with me, saying that he had come prepared to vent at someone from TBA and that it was hard to adjust to there not being a TBA representative in attendance.

At one point I was very hopeful about communicative effort towards productive amendments.  At this time, those efforts are not proceeding as quickly or as cooperatively as we were led to expect.  Though I haven’t given up hope, I am feeling discouraged, disheartened, and disappointed.

I’ve given presentations on HB 1293 at several local beekeeping clubs now.  If your association would like a presentation from us on the topic please let us know.

First Steps Towards Amending 1293

On Monday the sponsors of this site met with Chairman King’s staff, Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, board members of the Texas Beekeepers Association, and other concerned beekeepers at the Capitol and worked on a proposal to amend House Bill 1293. We had a constructive meeting and reached an agreement, in principle, on amendments that address the major issues that led to our opposition of this bill.

We are still working to turn Monday’s consensus into actual amendment language that everyone can agree on, and we can’t say anything especially decisive at the moment. We are still opposed to the bill as it is currently filed, but we have hopes that it can be amended in such a way that we can support it as a positive step forwards.

I want to specifically thank Judith from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance for her help in this matter; FARFA is a great organization that is having a positive impact and could use your support. They are working on some other bills this session that are likely to matter to beekeepers, and we hope to have some more info for you soon on these issues. I also want to say that I very much appreciate the TBA board members who are working with us on amendments… we’ve had some differences in opinion on this bill, but I do believe these people are doing their best to improve the situation for beekeepers in our state, and I do appreciate them for that.

If you are reading this and are not yet signed up for updates from this blog please consider subscribing so that we can keep you up to date as things progress. We will need to take additional action to support or oppose the wording of amendments once they are filed, and we appreciate your help.

Could Texas Ag Code adversely affect Native Bees?

Texas House Representative Tracy O. King of Uvalde County has introduced a bill in the current legislative session that affects changes to the portion of the Texas Agriculture Code that regulates beekeeping.  The proposed changes were filed on January 25 of this year in the form of House Bill 1293.

I believe that H.B. 1293 has the potential to have a significant negative impact on Texas native bee species.

You wouldn’t expect a revision to the state agricultural code on beekeeping to have an adverse impact on pollinators. In fact, most beekeepers are quick to tell you that what’s good for honey bees is good for native bees, and vice versa. They’re right… and yet this bill seems to imply otherwise.

Section 131.001, subdivision 17, defines “Unwanted species of bees” as “a species of bees, including a non-Apis species of bees, that is considered deleterious by the chief apiary inspector and that must be reported under Section 131.025.”

First off, unwanted bees? I’m sure that surprises most of us. We probably know that many US bee species are facing major difficulties. Seven Hawaiian species made the endangered list last year. The protected status of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee has already made headlines repeatedly in 2017. Nesting site loss, limited forage availability, monoculture farming, agricultural insecticide usage, mosquito spraying, climate change… all of this is hitting our native pollinators, and hitting them hard. We need to preserve our native bees.

Well, before we go any further, let’s just talk for a minute about the implications of “non-Apis” in this bill. The genus Apis includes all species and subspecies of the honey bees, and is placed under Texas Apiary Inspection Service jurisdiction by the definition of “bee” (Section 131.001 subdivision 4). So between these two definitions every single bee in Texas is under the jurisdiction of a department responsible for regulating and safeguarding the keeping of honey bees. All of our native bees are “non-Apis species of bees”. Bumble bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, digger bees, cactus bees, squash bees, longhorned bees, cuckoo bees, sunflower bees… all under Texas Apiary (root: Apis) Inspection Service control. How odd.

So what did the bill intend to address with the “unwanted species of bees” definition? I’ve spoken with members of the committee who worked on this bill before it went to Mr. King’s office. They say this is intended to address the Cape Bee, a honey bee from South Africa with a tendency to be parasitic on other honey bee hives. Not only is the Cape Bee an Apis species, but it’s actually a subspecies of the Western Honey Bee… as such, it could not be listed as an unwanted species without disallowing all of the honey bees in Texas. I’ve spoken with a TAIS official who confirmed this. The only conceivable positive use of this definition would be to attempt to prevent the influx of some invasive non-Apis bee species into Texas… my understanding is that there is no cause to think any such situation is likely. Even if it were, why would we expect invasive species issues to be regulated by the agency that is responsible for the agricultural keeping of honey bees? There is no reason to think an invasive species of non-Apis bee would have any more impact on beekeeping than our native species do.

Are Texas native bee species “deleterious” to the keeping of honey bees? Common sense would say no. Every beekeeper you ask will say no. But regulatory measures should be written to be able to address the worst case scenario. In conservation situations we frequently refer to this less-than-optimistic mindset as the precautionary principle. So the question is, if someone wanted to use the wording in this bill and make the legal argument that our native bees are deleterious to apiculture, could they? Unfortunately, I’m concerned the answer may be yes. On a most obvious level, bees do compete for floral resources; there is a limited amount of pollen and nectar to gather. What is picked up by one bee is not there for the next. I commonly hear people with an interest in preserving our native bees mention this argument as a downside to the presence of the non-native honey bee. It’s not crazy to think someone might attempt to apply this reasoning in reverse.

Also, pest and disease problems in bee populations are known to spread from their primary hosts to other species kept in close proximity. Traditionally American beekeepers battled many pests and diseases in their hives that had long been problems for Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee. In recent years we’ve battled more virulent opponents as pests and diseases have jumped species boundaries in search of new hosts. Varroa mites have plagued the beekeeping industry since they crossed to our bees from their primary host in Asia. If you ask the TAIS what they fear will be the next big pest issue in American beekeeping, they’ll probably tell you Tropilaelaps parasites… also jumping from another primary bee host to Apis mellifera hives in other parts of the world as we speak. Nosema diseases have crossed species lines as well. Our natives may be less likely than some to share diseases with honey bees, but deformed wing virus does exist in both honey bee and bumble bee populations. Bumble bees are the primary host for Nosema bombi, which is transmitted via shared floral resources but has not yet shown any ability to spread to honey bees. Hopefully the transmission of diseases and pests between these species will never be a concern, but as more American beekeepers get into management of mason bees, leafcutter bees, and bumble bees, it’s not ridiculous to be concerned that crossover issues may occur in both directions. I would hope that the preservation of our native species would always be a top priority as we move forward, and it’s scary to imagine a future where there’s even the slightest hint of a possibility that native species would be destroyed or eradicated (Section 131.022) due to some negative impact or perceived threat to the keeping of honey bees.

Even if you are willing to assume that these bees actually being listed as deleterious is simply a scenario beyond reason and beyond possibility I’m concerned that there’s a negative impact from the wording in this bill. It could be read by uninformed new beekeepers who will see the implication that non-Apis species are unwanted, even if they haven’t been listed as such. This wording solves no known problem; it accomplishes nothing other than sitting there looking bad in print. It’s a black eye to Texas beekeeping to have “unwanted bees” in our ag code, especially with “non-Apis” in the definition. The beekeepers around me care intensely about native pollinator preservation, and this makes us all look like we don’t.

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.

More Fallacies in Support of 1293

Texas Beekeepers Association released a new wave of information and disinformation in support of HB 1293 today. I don’t think we can even assume it’s all honest ignorance anymore… the fallacies just keep coming. They continue to post “facts” that we’ve pointed out to them are not factual, and we even see them contradicting themselves from one page to the next in the name of selling us on HB1293. So let’s take a closer look.

#1) First off, they are sticking to their guns on the idea that Chapter 131 was last updated in 1983. They have it in an extra-large font this time… “Existing Bee Laws… last updated in 1983“, they claim. As noted in the “Myths” post below, this is easily disproven by reading the current Chapter 131, which shows amendments in 1984, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1997, and most recently in 2011. You would expect them to at least resort to pointing out that these were minor changes… they were. I’ve been pointing out the inaccuracy of this statement to them for weeks now. But instead we see them pushing the fallacy and counting on their members not to read the law. By all means… READ THE LAW. READ THE BILL.
Remember, if you read the version provided on the TAIS site it will not show the most recent amendment. TBA is still sending people to the 1997 version as well; I suppose this helps push the “look how out of date it is” argument. The link on the main page of this site will lead you to the actual current version. (edit: the links to the outdated 131 on the TAIS site have since been removed and replaced in response to this posting)

#2) TBA’s own information on the current 131 says “A person may not sell or offer for sale a queen bee and attendant bees, package bees, nuclei, or queen cells in Texas unless the bees are accompanied by a certificate from the Chief Apiary Inspector stating that the apiary is free of disease, or an affidavit made by the beekeeper that the bees are not diseased.”
Yet when they are trying to sell us on HB 1293 (here), they say “Sellers of fewer than 25 queen bees, packages, colonies, or nuclei, collectively in a year, or those who sell fewer than 100 queen cells, would no longer be required to have a certificate of inspection or pay associated fees.” Strange, since we all know that we are not currently required to have a certificate of inspection to sell bees.

#3) They also say (here) “The permits required for both intra- and inter-state movement will be simplified”… which is confusing… I can’t imagine this is deliberately misleading; it’s just written as carelessly as the bill itself. Section 131.043, permits for intra-state movements, is repealed under HB 1293. This is one of the few things I like about the bill. But it could not be more clear that we cannot count on TBA to write what they mean to write or understand what they’ve written.
They also take this chance to point out that if you’re a migratory hobbyist the new bill helps you out. This is mostly laughable, though I suppose some people do move to a new state and take a backyard hive with them.

#4) They originally claimed here that there were 60 TBA members involved in writing this bill. The email I got today claims 30 TBA members were involved in writing this bill. Then the link provided in that email takes me here, where they now claim that “more than 60” people were involved. Any of the above is a tiny number of beekeepers to represent our entire state, but I’m curious… how many people actually contributed to writing this bill? Are there actually even 30 people who will claim responsibility for this thing? Who are they?

The new TBA FAQ also reiterates a lot of other things we have addressed as false in previous posts here; we have specifically informed them of these fallacies, but they continue to try to use them to persuade people to support their pet bill. They still refuse to admit that Apis mellifera capensis is a subspecies rather than a species. They still refuse to read their bill with a legalistic mindset instead of telling us what they mean for it to say, so they still refuse to see the issue with saying “pests” when you mean “reportable pests”. If you haven’t read them yet, be sure to take a look at “Myths Being Used To Support HB1293” and “Some Problems With 1293“.

Myths Being Used To Support HB1293

Some of the myths being used to promote HB1293:
#1) “Chapter 131 hasn’t been updated since 1983.”
FALSE.
The current chapter 131 shows numerous amendments since 1983. By all means go look. Amendment years include 1984, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1997, & 2011.  Part of the confusion on this is that the TAIS website supplies an outdated version of 131 that leads you to believe the bill hasn’t been updated since 1997. (edit: the links to outdated 131 have since been rectified in response to objections)

#2) “Treatments may only be mandated in the case of a quarantine, which may only be declared after TAIS has done “due diligence” in identifying and understanding the problem.”
FALSE.
Treatments may be required as the Chief Apiary Inspector deems “necessary” for the public welfare. Bees, honey, equipment, and more may be treated, seized, or destroyed at the Chief Apiary Inspector’s discretion.

#3) “’Unwanted species of bees’ is intended to target the South African Cape Bee. We all keep Apis mellifera mellifera. These are two very different species of bee.”
FALSE.
We all keep the species Apis mellifera (Western Honey Bees), but it is totally inaccurate to claim that we all keep subspecies Apis mellifera mellifera (it is not even a very commonly kept race/subspecies in the USA). Most Texas stock is mutt races consisting of Apis mellifera ligustica, Buckfast, Russians, Apis mellifera scutellata, and more. The “South African Cape Bee” is Apis mellifera capensis… species Apis mellifera. Not really all that different from the bees we keep, though undesirable due to their tendency to invade other hives. The Cape Bee is not present in the US. Listing the Cape Bee by species as an unwanted species of bee would require listing Apis mellifera as unwanted, which of course is impossible. HB1293 as written does not allow for listing subspecies/races of bee as undesirable. What is the real goal of the bill in this regard? Why does it specifically allow for “non-Apis” species to be listed as unwanted if the intent was to list an Apis mellifera subspecies? This is either horribly written with a very poor understanding of taxonomy, or it is a blatant untruth to conceal another agenda.

#4) “HB 1293 is the result of a grassroots movement in Texas beekeeping to revamp outdated regulations.”
FALSE.
HB 1293 is the result of a small committee formed by Texas Beekeepers Association. Local beekeeping associations around the state were not notified. Participation was limited to people who attended TBA Fall Convention 2015. Meetings were in Bryan/College Station, and were announced last minute, so even many of the people who had signed up to participate were unable to attend. All information pertaining to details of HB 1293 was deliberately kept behind closed doors until after the bill was already filed. Even then no notification was provided to the public by the committee or the Texas Beekeepers Association until the complaints started to pour in responding to the publicly filed bill. This is a bill written privately behind closed doors by a very small subsection of Texas beekeepers.

#5) “The limit for exemption from the requirement for registration of hives is being updated from 6 to 25.”
FALSE.
The current 131 defines an apiary as 6 or more hives, but does not require registration of apiaries.  It allows for optional registration for free.  HB 1293 mandates annual registration for any beekeeper with 25 hives or more and establishes fees for said annual registration.

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.