Busy bees: State agriculture officials prepare for beehive distribution program applications

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RICHMOND, Va. — There’s a buzz around Virginia’s state capital about a popular program for beekeepers, that will soon be accepting applications.

Starting in July, Virginians interested in getting a bee hive can apply to a state program for one. It’s called the Beehive Distribution Program. Some form of it has been around since 2013 and it’s by the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). 

Seeing major decreases in bee populations over the past few decades, VDACS has been working with the General Assembly to keep pollinators alive. VDACS officials were speaking with members of the public and other state offices about Virginia’s pollinator population Friday at a farmer’s market set up on Capitol Square. 

“What those pollinators do is not just help us produce agricultural crops, like our fruits and vegetables,” state apiarist Keith Tignor said. “It also helps with stabilizing the landscape because they’re going to be going out, pollinating our trees for seeds to be produced there.” 

The program was revamped by the General Assembly in 2018, under HB1152. Before, participants would be reimbursed by the state for buying a beehive. Now, the state will give them one. There’s $125,000 set aside in the budget for the program. 

More than 360 applications were accepted last year, out of the more than 2,600 that applied within the first month. Tignor noticed that most of the people who applied to the program last year were first time beekeepers. 

Under the law, VDACS can close the application process when funding runs out or is exhausted. Since forms of the program started, less money has been given to it. According to a 2017 state report on the Beehive Grant Program, the former initiative, $5,505 was allocated during the 2017 fiscal year, and then $4,304 in the next. That’s compared to more than $153,000 in 2014. 

Tignor is hopeful the program will continue to thrive. Since VDACS released information about the application process earlier in the week, staffers have received countless phone calls with interest. 

“We were able to reach out to 101 localities with the beehive distribution program this past fiscal year, we’re hoping to do as good next year,” Tignor said. “That’s pretty much the entire state.”

The application process will officially begin July 1. The application is online and will not be available until midnight of the start of the month. You’ll be able to access it here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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