Tim Field of Herndon checks his honeybee hives. Although his hives did not suffer colony loss, 60 percent of reporting beekeepers in the Commonwealth of Virginia did, the fourth highest loss percentage in the United States. In an effort to increase the bee population in Virginia after a reported near 60 percent total colony loss by reporting beekeepers in the Commonwealth, individuals 18 years and older may receive up to three free bee hives through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Beehive Distribution Program.
Photo by Mercia Hobson.
The winter losses of honeybee colonies over the 2017 – 2018 season were greater than expected. To address the problem and increase the number of actively managed bee colonies, the 2018 Session of the Virginia General Assembly established the Beehive Distribution Program.
"An individual who submits an application to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for a beehive unit through the Program will be registered as a beekeeper with the Department … Individuals may receive no more than three basic beehive units per fiscal year (July 1 thru June 30). Only residents of Virginia who are 18 years of age or older at the time the application is submitted are eligible to receive a beehive unit through the Program."
"The winter losses were 59.5 percent," said Keith Tignor, State Apiarist. This is the highest rate since 2000 when the state began monitoring winter losses. It is the fourth highest reported in the nation for total winter all colony loss with only Arizona, Tennessee and Louisiana reporting higher losses according to the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership.
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said “VDACS staff found high levels of Varroa mites and nosema infections in wintering bees. Both of these maladies shorten the lifespan of worker bees, increasing mortality rates in winter months."
VDACS cautions that applicants must comply with all state and local requirements related to beehive management and other beekeeping activity as well as contact the locality in which the beehive(s) will be located to ensure compliance with all applicable ordinances.
Applications for beehive units may be submitted electronically at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/plant-industry-services-beehive-distribution-program.shtml