Bee Grant Funding In Jeopardy
GA To Decide On Future Of Beekeeping Program
Posted: January 10, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Virginia’s steadily declining bee population might not get a boost this year after all.
During a time of severe trauma for bees, with nearly 30 percent lost every year due to mites and disease, the state announced last spring the creation of the Beehive Grant Fund in hopes of increasing the number of hives.
Colony collapse disorder is one of the main culprits of the drop in bee populations across the state and nation. The mysterious disorder is characterized by sudden loss of a colony’s worker bees and few dead bees found near the colony.
Honeybees are an integral part of any ecosystem, not only because of their edible creation, honey, but also because they’re responsible for pollinating many crops.
“We’re losing beehives at a fairly alarming rate every year,” said Elaine Lidholm, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
In May, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office reported that a pool of grant funding would be available starting Jan. 1. It originally allowed $125,000 for both fiscal years 2013 and 2014 for new and experienced beekeepers to receive up to $200 per hive in reimbursements.
Since that date, the state ag office has been flooded with more than 300 applications requesting well in excess of the current fiscal year’s funding limit.
But many applicants, including quite a few in the central Valley, may not realize that the funding is in jeopardy.
Among the budget amendments the governor released in mid-December is a proposal to defer a decision on whether to fund the program to the General Assembly. The legislature convened Wednesday for the start of the 2013 session.
If lawmakers agree to keep the program this fiscal year, applicants could see reimbursement starting in April.
James and Crystal Epley of Broadway lost all their bees during the first two years after they started colonies, thanks to either colony collapse disorder, new beekeeper learning curve, or both.
That was eight seasons ago, when they lived in Kentucky. The couple moved to Rockingham County in December 2011.
They’ve been steadily expanding every year and plan to put their names in the pot to potentially receive funding.
“With an economy like this, not knowing is … taking a big chance,” Crystal Epley said, adding that the couple needs about $5,000 worth of equipment that isn’t even covered by the grant. “We could use [the beehives] this year, but it’s not something we would buy if we weren’t eligible for the grant.”
Starting one hive from scratch costs roughly $125, according to Dennis Whetzel, who owns Golden Angels Apiary in Singers Glen and watches over almost 500 hives.
“The state of Virginia, they don’t really consider the bee population very much,” said Whetzel, who argues that a more aggressive inspection program could help reduce disease.
Kevin Jones, president of the Shenandoah Valley Beekeepers Association, said he wouldn’t be surprised if state legislators cut funding to the program.
“There’s quite a few people actually in the Valley who have [applied],” he said.
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