Beekeeping Laws FAQ
This last week HB 1293 was introduced into the Texas legislature by Representative Tracy King. This bill will update the existing beekeeping laws in Texas for the betterment of the beekeeping industry, whether you are a commercial, side-line, or hobbyist beekeeper.
Some questions and comments have been asked which we’d like to clarify with this post.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “Will TBA be discussing HB1293 at the Winter Delegates Meeting on February 18 in College Station?” – Yes. At the February 18 meeting TBA member associations will receive additional information and resources to communicate the facts about HB 1293 to their association members. TBA directors will also be making presentations to member associations in their areas. In the meantime, if you have questions, you are welcome to submit them to the TBA mailbox at “firstname.lastname@example.org” for an answer. You can also subscribe to the TBA blog for updates and downloads of the information on HB 1293.
TBA thanks all Texas beekeepers for their interest and support of HB 1293 for the betterment of beekeeping in our great state!