Texas Beekeepers Welcome Mary Reed as Chief Apiary Inspector

The Texas Apiary Inspection Service has announced Mary Reed to be Chief Apiary Inspector for the State of Texas.

Although Ms. Reed is new to that position, she is not new to TAIS and has served in TAIS as apiary inspector for many years.

 

More information can be found at:  https://txbeeinspection.tamu.edu/contacts/

Texas Beekeepers Association Board Backs Away from House Bill 1293

The following is taken from the Texas Beekeepers Association Website.
To View original post, goto website -> http://texasbeekeepers.org/cancellation-hb-1293/

Cancellation of HB 1293

TBA members and fellow beekeepers,

Your TBA board and others have worked diligently for the last months, and in some cases years, to draft legislation to update the beekeeping laws in Texas. We want to inform all of you of the status of HB 1293, the bill proposing changes to Chapter 131 of the Texas Agricultural Code.

After much discussion, the TBA board chose to not proceed with HB 1293 for this legislative session. This was not an easy decision to make. TBA is still committed to updating the bee laws in Texas, but that update will have to wait until the 2019 legislative session.

There are three main reasons that the TBA board decided to not proceed with the legislation this year:

  1. Communication/Involvement – TBA has worked on HB 1293, and its predecessor, for 4 years. We communicated to our members the reasons for writing the legislation as we did and invited TBA members to participate in the development of the proposed legislation. However, we did not communicate our message clearly enough to all Texas beekeepers. Some individuals reported feeling that TBA had poorly communicated to them, or did not solicit their input, so they opposed the bill on those grounds. It is a daunting task to gather input and to communicate with thousands of beekeepers across the state to the extent that everyone feels involved, represented, and routinely updated.
  1. Wording – Some individuals, both inside and outside of our membership, opposed the bill because of the way specific sections were worded. Many individuals offered good suggestions. TBA absolutely heard all of the input, and much will be incorporated into the development process for the 2019 legislative session. However, the time required to communicate, incorporate, and then legislatively write the changes to HB 1293 would have put us beyond the deadlines for the 2017 legislative session, so we stopped the process.
  1. Oversight – Opinions on what bee laws should look like in Texas vary greatly. HB 1293, as written, is an improvement over the existing Section 131 laws. It would have given Texas beekeepers an appeal process if they disagreed with the Chief Apiary Inspector on quarantines. The main issue here was whether the Texas Apiary Inspection Service needed a legislatively appointed oversight board to review their decisions. A change of this magnitude to HB 1293, without knowing all the details and ramifications of such a change, could not be properly handled in the short time remaining in this legislative session. Hence, we stopped the process so that all beekeepers could properly consider whether to incorporate an oversight board into the Section 131 laws and if yes, what its powers and oversight of the Chief Apiary Inspector would be.

TBA’s desire and the only reason for TBA suggesting changes to Section 131 is to improve the beekeeping industry in Texas, and thus protect our industry and our bees. Unfortunately, HB 1293, in its current form, is not the right change. We know that our current law is not working well for us and that it could be very oppressive to all scales of beekeepers if the letter of the law were strictly enforced. We highly encourage all of you to read the Texas Agriculture Code Chapter 131 to understand what the current requirements are and then to comply with them. Continue your involvement with TBA. Watch your inbox, read the TBA Journal, and attend TBA meetings as, together, we communicate about the next steps in this process.

We are determined to update the beekeeping laws in Texas. We will use the time between now and the next legislative session to address the issues listed above and any others you want to bring forth. You have our commitment to do so.

Thank you so much for your support. We wish you a fantastic year of beekeeping as the honey flow begins in Texas!

Best regards,
The TBA Board

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.

Should an Enforcement Agency Define What a Violation Is?

Imagine you are pulled over by a police officer for speeding and that police officer is allowed to decide what the speed limit is between the time he gets out of his car and issues you a citation.  Whether or not this was the intention of  Texas Beekeepers Association in their proposals to amend Chapter 131 of the Agriculture Code,  it’s analogous to a scenario allowed under House Bill 1293.

Section 25 of House Bill 1293 changes Section 131.121  of Chapter 131 to read, “A person commits an offense (Class C Misdemeanor) if the person fails to report reportable diseases, reportable pests, or unwanted species of bees,……. sells, offers for sale, barters, gives away, ships, or distributes honey or pollen taken from a colony of bees that has a reportable disease or a colony of bees that contains a reportable pest;”  Further language is changed under HB 1293 that allows the Chief Apiary Inspector, the person that enforces Chapter 131, sole discretion in determining what is a “reportable pest”.

Section 10 of House Bill 1293 changes Section 131.023 to read, “…. a person may not sell or offer for sale a queen bee and attendant bees, package bees, colonies, nuclei, or queen cells in this state unless the bees are accompanied by a certificate of inspection that certifies that the bees are apparently free from disease and pests based on an actual inspection conducted not more than 12 months before the date of the sale.  Again in HB1293 language is changed under HB 1293 that allows the Chief Apiary Inspector sole discretion in determining what is a reportable pest.

This author prefers a system whereby there is a division between those that write regulations and those that enforce them.

HB1293 Opponents Deliver a List of Issues and Solutions to Bill Sponsor’s Office

HB 1293 – Issues and Solutions

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has been in discussions with its members and other beekeepers to identify the core concerns with HB 1293, and possible solutions to those concerns.

While everyone agrees that Chapter 131 needs to be revised, several of the provision of HB 1293 will create new problems or exacerbate existing ones.

Issue #1: Accountability. The CAI has broad powers, and HB 1293 expands those. Yet despite having essentially regulatory powers, the CAI is not a regulatory officer nor within the jurisdiction of a regulator agency. Decisions to define unwanted pests and disease, or to order a quarantine or destruction of hives, need review by experts and stakeholders. Even absent abuse, the current structure does not provide representation for the wide range of people affected by the bee industry.

  • Recommendation #1a: Create a Honey Bee Advisory Board with 7-9 members, including representatives of large-scale commercial beekeepers, small-scale commercial beekeepers, hobby beekeepers, farming, wildlife, and academia. This board would meet at least annually to set TAIS policy and regulatory objectives and initiate rule-making, recommend or endorse specific TAIS actions in response to the detection of new pests or disease, and approve extraordinary actions (seize and destroy, order implementation of colony management practices, quarantine, etc.). The Board would thus set boundaries on the CAI’s discretion.
  • Recommendation #1b: Expand appeal procedures to cover not just quarantines, but also other decisions or actions affecting property rights, such as seizure, destruction, or required treatment.
  • Recommendation #1c: Direct the new Board to include consideration of the feral honey bee population, and the impact of that population on the probable efficacy of pest or disease control, eradication or mitigation measures.
  • Recommendation #1e: Remove any provisions in HB 1293 that refer to the CAI determining what diseases or pests are subject to regulation of penalties. Change all references to “pests” or “diseases” to “reportable pests” or “reportable diseases” as designated by the new Board. If the new Board is not established in 2017 legislation, then the designations could be linked to USDA APHIS determinations.

Issue #2: Negative impact on small to medium scale operations: The ability of the CAI to require inspections, combined with the directive to recover costs, are likely to result in competitive disadvantage.

  • Recommendation #2a: Establish a tiered or sliding scale structure for fees based on colony count or other equitable measure.
  • Recommendation #2b: Retain the option to self-certify via affidavit.

Issue #3: The bill places all bees, both native and domestic, including bumble bees, under the authority of the CAI.

  • Recommendation #3: Change the definition of bee so as not to extend authority to native bee species. (If no one believes that the CAI would declare native bees as unwanted, then there should be no objection to removing that power.)

Issue #4: Mandatory registration will not be acceptable to many people, and the requirement will lead to widespread noncompliance. In addition, to try to avoid impacting micro-beekeepers with the new mandatory requirement, the bill changed the provision for registration to 25 hives; but this could have an unintended impact on property tax valuation because many county appraisal districts have used the current apiary registration definition of 6 hives as a starting point for their guidelines.

  • Recommendation #4: Remove the mandatory registration requirement and maintain the current definitions of apiary and beekeeper. A voluntary registration could be established that would allow notification of beekeepers when there is an issue of concern (disease, pests, or pesticide overspray) in their areas, providing benefits that would encourage registration.

Issue #5: The bill expands the failure of a beekeeper to report endemic diseases and pests in any colony that he is aware of, to be a Class C Misdemeanor. If read strictly, this requires reporting on fellow beekeepers. Whether the CAI enforces it this way or not, the possibility of it will discourage beekeepers, especially newcomers, from seeking help and advice from more experienced people.

  • Recommendation #5: Clarify the language so as to require people to notify the CAI of reportable diseases in their own hives. Change the failure to do so to a civil penalty only.

Issue #6: The bill requires Texas queen and package bee suppliers to pay for certificate of inspection, though out-of-state bee suppliers have no such requirement.

  • Recommendation #6: Remove the requirement of certificate of inspection for intrastate sales and delivery.

Issue #7: The regulations on “equipment” do not specify used equipment, yet there is no risk of spreading disease through new equipment.

  • Recommendation #7: Amend the definition of “equipment” to “used equipment,” and then amend the requirements to apply to used equipment. Proposed definition: “’Used Beekeeping Equipment’ means hives, supers, frames, veils, gloves, tools, machines, vacuums, or other devices for the handling and manipulation of bees, honey, pollen, wax, or hives, including storage or transporting containers for pollen, honey, or wax or other apiary supplies used in the operation of an apiary or honey house and that have previously been used to contain, manipulate, transport, house or process colonies, hives, bees, bee colonies, bee products or their unpasteurized by products.”

In cooperation with:
Bruce Bonnett
Ryan Giesecke
Dennis Gray
Tanya Phillips
Chuck Reburn

Historic Bee Supplier, BeeWeaver, Takes a Stand on HB1293

To View this message in its entirety go to BeeWeaver Discusses HB1293

FROM BEEWEAVER APIARIES

Dear All,

We don’t typically solicit fellow beekeepers and/or customers to support or oppose specific political positions or urge them to contact their representatives and speak out on proposed legislation, but we’ve learned of a bill that has been introduced in the current Texas legislative session that directly affects beekeepers – so we’re alerting you to that development and expressing our deep concern with the potential impact of this bill as proposed.

We encourage you to acquaint yourselves with HB 1293. There is a claim by some that this is bill was endorsed by the Texas Beekeepers Association, when in fact the TBA Board never voted to approve the bill or the amended statutory language prior to bill’s introduction.  More than that, the bill’s proponents adamantly refused to share the proposed language of the bill with the TBA membership at the last annual meeting in November, 2016, though promised to do so before the bill was introduced.  That promised public notice never occurred either. The TBA is supposed to be a democratic organization, but this process was not democratic and violated the TBA’s own governance procedures. For these reasons alone this bill, as written, should be defeated.

More than that, while we recognize that the Texas Bee Law needs to be changed, the language in HB 1293 is substantively flawed, so much so that we believe it must be amended extensively, or else defeated.

You can find documents discussing HB 1293, developed by a group that has emerged in opposition to HB 1293, at savetexasbeekeepers.org, You will find a document showing you why the bill is problematic, and an outline of what might be done to rectify the current problems with the Bee Law as written and fix HB 1293, too. We urge you take time to reflect on this pending legislation.  If you find these developments and this legislation as alarming and objectionable as we do, then please contact your Texas State Representative and Texas Senator, and speak out in opposition to HB 1293 as currently written.

For Bees and their Keepers,
Laura & Danny Weaver
BeeWeaver Apiaries

The Failure of Texas Ag Code Chapter 131

 

Texas Ag Code Chapter 131 sets out provisions for regulating Bees and Honey. This section is characterized by a register-inspect-quarantine-treat/destroy regime that has failed Texas Beekeepers from the start.

Registration under current law is voluntary and free. Registration is currently used for appearing “official” in two regards. First, land owners are frequently required to register the hives on their land in order to establish ag valuation for ad valorum property taxes. The registration is one way in which county appraisal districts can defer to a state agency, in this case Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS) for the purpose of recognition of ag use of properties. Second, the registration is required for Texas Master Beekeeper Candidates for official recognition of their activities in beekeeping. Both uses are somewhat arbitrary.

Bee inspections in Texas are focused on disease and pest identification and management. Historically, inspectors usually focused, as they should, on commercial operations that sell queens, packages or nucs, and commercial pollinators – those perceived as having a high risk to vector disease. For instance, large shipments of bees from out of state arrive on trucks in quantities of approximately 400 each. Their potential to vector disease results from 1) their high numbers, and 2) their migratory nature and concomitant exposure to diseases from a variety of ecologies across the entire continent. Nevertheless, these migratory, commercial pollinators currently vector very little disease into the state as their hives are heavily and frequently treated for disease and pests.

Resident beekeepers are occasionally inspected and the results are similar to migratory operators. Economic realities force these operators to carefully monitor and treat their hives.

Hobby beekeepers are seldom inspected as part of the state inspection program, but any beekeeper may request an inspection. These requested inspections require a fee (currently $75) and the results are dramatically higher levels of disease and pests. According to TAIS, for example, the average mite counts for commercial or sideliner operations is 1.8-1.9 mites per hundred bees. The same metric for hobby beekeepers was 5.7, approximately 3 times the level of professional beekeepers.

The mere idea of a quarantine of honey bees is absurd. Bees can not be confined to a geographic area of course, because they’re free to fly. When they forage they will encounter and/or spread whatever diseases or communicable pests that are present in the local ecology. It is also pointless to “quarantine” managed bees when they are surrounded by high densities of feral colonies that will vector any disease or pest around the managed colony quarantine.

This point can not be over emphasized. A leading entomologist at Texas A&M University has written, “As someone who has worked with invasive species my entire career, I can’t think of a single instance where a quarantine stopped the spread of any invasive insect or plant.” He also recognized that feral bees play a critical role in vectoring any pest or disease around “quarantined” managed colonies. “…when Africanized bees first were detected in the State I would have argued vehemently against any quarantine effort. It would not stop Africanized bees and it would only waste resources [and]…feral populations of bees in some parts of the state are more dominant than managed bees.” This was exactly what happened with Africanized bees in Texas. These costly and damaging measures must be considered in the context of efficacy, cost to beekeepers, and benefit to the state.

The bee inspector also has the power to order treatment or destruction of hives, and this authority goes hand-in-hand with quarantines. Despite inspector-ordered destruction of thousands of colonies, this dangerous and economically devastating measure has never stopped the spread of invasive honey bee pests such as varroa and tracheal mites. Occasionally American Foulbrood (AFB), a highly transmissible bacterial infection of honey bees is identified and a hive ordered destroyed by inspectors. The apiary is quarantined and reinspected after treatment. The result of this regime, combined with the economic realities of commercial beekeepers, is that AFB cases are carefully monitored and treated before an inspector can make such a discovery. Professional beekeepers, like every other animal husbandry activity, are perfectly capable to monitoring and treating these routine disease cases without the state supervision. Abandoned hives infected with AFB may warrant a bee inspector’s intervention, but feral colonies remain impossible to inspect, treat, or destroy. The inevitable result is that AFB will persist in the honey bee population.

Current law authorizing the seizure and destruction of hives has been abused egregiously in the past. A former Chief Apiary Inspector ordered thousands of hives destroyed in a futile effort, justified by the inspector as necessary to keep Varroa mites out of Texas. A subsequent quarantine imposed by a former bee inspector when a beekeeper advised the inspector of the presence of small hive beetles in Texas caused economic damage to the beekeeper who was forced to identify his live bee products (nucs and packages) as produced in a SHB infested apiary. Did this quarantine and destruction of bees protect Texas from SHB or Varroa? Of course not. They are ubiquitous now as they were then. Was the law applied equally to all beekeepers found with SHB or Varroa? No. Was the declaration of SHB as a dangerous pest or the declaration of a quarantine reviewed by any expert panel? Was it deleterious to beekeeping in Texas? Are we still issuing quarantines for this pest? No, no, no.

The regime of register-inspect-quarantine-destroy has failed for every imaginable pest in the past, and, according to experts, it is likely to fail for every pest in the future. No disease or pest of the honey bee has been halted or contained in Texas. As we’ve already seen, SHB are everywhere in Texas. African Honey bees spread their influence across the greater portion of the entire state, stopped only by climate/ecology in some regions. The Varroa mite is in every colony in North America, managed or feral. Nosema is common in Texas. Section 131 has failed in each of these introductions.

HB 1293 seeks to expand upon this complete failure with more registration, more inspection, and additional authority to declare quarantines and destruction. Along the way, the bill adds non-honey bees to the authority of an ag inspector.

The declaration of disease and pest should be made by experts after consideration of complicated factors in ecology. A single state official should not possess the power to destroy a business. As with the case of SHB, a single inspector may be badly wrong in his determination. HB 1293 does not provide such oversight by experts or accountability of the Chief Inspector.

The mission statement of TAIS says

“The mission of the Texas Apiary Inspection Service is to safeguard the apiary industry of Texas through the application of science-based regulations, educational opportunities and open communication with the industry.”

HB 1293 does not reflect science-based regulations. It builds upon decades of failed policy, while adding costs and interference to beekeeping in Texas.

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.