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 TBA is still sending people to the 1997 version as well; I suppose this helps push the “look how out of date it is” argument.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 (edit: the links to the outdated 131 on the TAIS site have since been removed and replaced in response to this posting)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“.

HB1293: TRUTH versus FICTION

It’s clear from the February 5th POST on the Texas Beekeepers Association website, that there is a difference between what H.B. 1293 says and what certain members of the TBA hope that it says.

Below illustrates the differences between the hope and the reality

TBA POST February 5th, 2017

REALITY

“The bill seems to be mostly housekeeping. Is that correct?”

There are many housekeeping changes to the existing beekeeping laws, last updated in 1983, to bring it up to the state of beekeeping in 2017. One example is that of “reportable pests.” In the existing law, ANY pest or disease of honeybees is to be reported to the Chief Apiary Inspector. This would include varroa mites, which we all have! The real intent is to make the Chief Apiary Inspector aware of pests and diseases which will have a real impact on beekeeping, such as the Foulbrood diseases or the most recently discussed Australian Sap Beetle, which is now in California.

POSTER OF FEB 5th is misinformed

Chapter 131 was last updated in 2011. Other updates were in 1985, 1989. 1991, 1993 &1997.

Beekeepers are required to rat on their fellow beekeeper.

HB1293 continues to make it a violation of Chapter 131 if a beekeeper does not report a pest or disease that that beekeeper is aware of that his fellow beekeeper’s colony has. So much for beekeepers helping beekeepers.

 

“Will there be a mandate to treat hives if this legislation passes?”
– The only requirement to treat a hive would be if a quarantine is enacted by the Chief Apiary Inspector. This can only be done when the Chief Apiary Inspector has done their due diligence with regard to identification of the pest or disease to be treated. Unlike in the existing law, HB 1293 will give beekeepers the right to appeal any proposed quarantine.

It is assumed that the wording in red italics in
the left hand column was intended to have been written:

“This can only be done when the Chief Apiary Inspector has done his or her due diligence with regard to identification of the pest or disease to be treated.”

NO DUE DILIGENCE REQUIRED

HB1293 does not require any minimum amount of due diligence on the part of the Chief Apiary Inspector. That power to define a deleterious pest and order its destruction is given to a single individual without requiring proof it is deleterious. Further, HB1293 allows this list created by a single individual can be changed and altered on a daily basis at the discretion.

“What are some examples of unwanted species of bees?” The real threat here is from bees that are very different from the bees we keep, Apis mellifera mellifera. An example of unwanted bee species would be Apis mellifera capensis, or the South African Cape bee. These Cape bees can quickly parasitize an Apis mellifera mellifera colony causing great economic harm for the beekeeper. Once established in a colony of another Apis mellifera subspecies, Cape laying workers behave like cancer cells; rapidly reproducing and draining colony resources while offering no benefit to the host. Infected colonies eventually dwindle and die at which point the remaining Cape workers disperse to parasitize new host colonies.

This explanation fails to explain why the wording “Unwanted species of bees” means a species of bees, including a non-Apis species of bees” is needed.

Apis mellifera capensis is Sub-species of Apis mellifera.  Including the term non-Apis species of bees allows the Chief Apiary Inspector to declare native pollinators in competition with Apis mellifera to be declared deleterious.
Examples of non-apis species of bees are bumble bees & mason bees.

“Why are we just now hearing about this
legislation?”
– A subgroup of TBA members have been at work since the November 2015 annual meeting to draft proposed legislation. The work began in earnest in early 2016 when 60 TBA members who volunteered at the 2015 annual meeting, met to begin deliberations. By June of 2016 the group completed a draft of the legislation, however it still remained for legislative counsel to vet the draft and convert it to a form that could be submitted to the 2017 Texas legislature. Legislative counsel completed their work in late 2016 and the bill was finally filed and could be openly discussed in January 2017. Before then there was nothing that could be formally discussed. This was the issue at the November 2016 TBA Annual meeting; the bill was in draft form, awaiting final approval from legislative counsel.

This explanation to the left is written as if though the TBA would have you believe they were under some restraining order
or were disallowed by law from disclosing proposals submitted to legislative counsel.

While it is true that TBA wouldn’t discuss the proposals and even refused to do so at the 2016 TBA conference, this author
can’t help but wonder if the TBA was trying to hide what they knew would be controversial changes.

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.