Thursday, July 25, 2013

Virginia SB 354 Update

Some readers out there keep searching for a 2012 post on Virginia Senate Bill #354. They can't be all that keen to reread the silly pun I made about it. They must want an update! Yes, SB 354 was enacted into law...

Free money for beekeepers? Well, money, anyway. Strings may be attached; the number and position of "strings" may vary.

One good string that needs to be attached is that, before people go into beekeeping, they understand why honeybee populations have gone into decline. The more peaceable bees are, the more vulnerable they tend to be to a fungus infection that's wiped out whole beekeeping operations during the past twenty years or so. If anybody out there is thinking, "Well, my great-uncle left some old hives moldering away on the hillside. I'll just stock'em with bees and collect the money," you need to get educated before you apply for this grant money. You will need new hives; you may need a new plan for assuring any bees you adopt a dry, healthy place to live. Hives in which bees died of foulbrood need to be burned. Land on which bees died of foulbrood should in most cases be disqualified for grants.

Another thing: I didn't have to look up foulbrood. I learned about it from a beekeeper who had to burn his hives in 1994. Although beekeeping was his only job for many years, he no longer handles bees. He became disabled by a mysterious blood disease that's not believed to be either contagious or hereditary or cancer-related. Doctors suspected that prolonged and frequent exposure to bee venom might have caused the disease.

Another thing: "Africanized" bees aren't as genteel in their habits as the peace-loving, lower-immunity "Italian" breed. Although the Bible notes the phenomenon of bees nesting in a carcass as a "News of the Weird" item thirty gamblers and riddle-lovers failed to imagine, I have seen "Africanized" bees ignoring clover blossoms to buzz around carrion or cat litter. (Yes, these were bees, not flies that try to look like bees; they had nests containing honeycombs.) I would not expect the kind of health benefits sometimes reported for various kinds of flower honey to be available from honey produced by garbage-eating bees. "Italian" bees are said to be so particular about their honey that the alert beekeeper can pick out separate combs of honey derived from different kinds of flower; I don't know whether this is true for the "Africanized" breeds.

So...beware: the challenges of beekeeping go beyond buying hive material and avoiding stings. Nevertheless, many people do find beekeeping pleasant and profitable.