The Fate of Bee Inspection in the
Bee Culture (2003) Vol. 131 (7): 19-21
Malcolm T. Sanford
inspection services have been public whipping boys in the
The results of inconsistent rules have caused many in the beekeeping industry to re-examine the role of regulators. Dr. Richard Taylor, long-time writer for Bee Culture, asked the question, "Have inspection programs outlived their usefulness?" (July, 1991). He ends his piece by stating, "My own view is, and has for some time been, that mandatory inspection of apiaries is something whose time has long since come, and gone. American foulbrood is a manageable problem that can be left in the hands of beekeepers themselves. This is not going to eliminate American foulbrood, to be sure, but neither is anything else. It is not a proper area for government."
Dr. Taylor's comments concerning the historical reason for bee inspection (American foulbrood control), why it is no longer needed and the fact that such bureaucracies tend to have a life of their own are valid. Most professionals in the research and education establishment would agree with much of what he said.
Although technologies to control American foulbrood, Varroa and tracheal mites are in place, however, this does not necessarily warrant eliminating inspection services around the nation. The old saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water," applies. Although in some cases inspection agencies are viewed as abusive and having a life of their own, as stated by Dr. Taylor, this does not mean they cannot adapt their programs to aid the industry being regulated instead of damaging it. Inspection services, like most political entities, are not necessarily immune to pressure from the group being regulated. And there are many benefits that inspection services perform for the industry that are not often fully appreciated.
As a former extension worker, I have always thought of bee inspectors as my agents in the field, providing needed information to beekeepers, running the gamut from the one-colony beehaver to a seasoned migratory operator. I don't know how many times I've referred persons to inspectors for a wide range of services beyond simply inspecting colonies for potential problems. These have included collecting pesticide-killed bees for analysis, investigating stinging incidents and nuisance colonies, and participating in local beekeeper meetings and educational events. Without these helpers in the field, I would not have access to information on beekeeping around the state or statistics about the industry. Inspection services have also been involved in working with mosquito control agencies, power companies and property owners concerning honey bee issues.
A survey by Bee
Culture (May 1991) would not have been possible without state inspection
services. Research into bee problems
also is promoted by inspection services and sometimes they are active
participants in the process. The current menthol application technology was
championed by the
There is an
Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) association through which inspectors around
the country are able to communicate.
For a more recent example of the kinds of service inspection programs provide, consider the following from Jimmy Dunkley, Program Coordinator, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) Nursery & Apiary Programs:4
“For approximately 3 years we
have had an established SHB presence in the greater
“In January 2003, one beetle
was collected by a beekeeper in south central
“LDAF inspectors have checked 10 queen and/or package honey bee producers for SHB the last six years with no detections. Several migratory operations are also inspected annually. Inspectors have been asked to check 25% more colonies this spring. No detections have been made to date.
“On March 10th I was notified
by USDA-ARS personnel about an introduction of SHB at the
“Upon notification the LDAF
placed a ‘Stop Order’ prohibiting any movement of bees and beekeeping equipment
from the main laboratory site and a site directly across from the lab, off
“Partial releases of bees and equipment have taken place since LDAF involvement but only after inspection and risk assessment (queens and attendants, used supers with new foundation after inspection, used honey supers after being frozen, etc.). Additional inspections were made on May 14 - 15, 2003 and no additional SHB detections have been found. The USDA Bee Lab was released from ‘Stop Order’ on May 15th.”
Here is some
further information on that particular situation from Dr. Thomas Rinderer, Research Leader at the
“Bees on comb came in. Beetles came also. We had a short period when beetles might have gotten into lab hives. We discovered the beetles and killed the colony. The state instituted a quarantine on the apiary site. They inspected twice, this week being the last. The quarantine is now lifted based on no detection. We operated under inspection and certification of material that had to leave the site. LDAF officials went out of their way to make sure we could still do what we needed to do and I am grateful for their efforts.
“Having a regulatory action that ends with a full clearance of ‘no hive beetle’ makes moving bees possible. The inspections were thorough and complete, removing any cloud of doubt about whether or not we are infesting other beekeepers. Also, since we do not want to be the source of other beekeepers’ SHB we would have rather restructured what we do if we had been found to be generally infested. But now, we can move to states that would not otherwise accept us and may be able to do so for a long time to come. Indeed, the places we go may get SHB before we
“This is another example of good regulation serving the needs of the beekeeping industry. If there is anything to think about here, it is that good apiary regulation is very important to all of us over the long term. The pay offs of moving bees and queens without spreading problems is well worth the price of the short-term inconveniences of being regulated.”
The inspection service is a vital bureaucracy, which can be used to hammer at the doors of an increasingly urban officialdom about the problems the beekeeping industry faces. And it is not a given that some of the same concerns prompting establishment of bee inspection services in the first place, and well supported by the beekeeping industry in the past, will not reappear in the future. It is far easier to get rid of a bureaucracy than to try to re-establish one; beekeepers who support the dismantling of bee inspection services do so at the peril of losing a strong ally in their efforts to survive in a society less and less in touch with its agricultural roots.