(WFXR) — The commonwealth’s Beehive Distribution Program has officially opened for applicants as of Thursday Oct. 10. The program provides free equipment for assembling up to three new beehives.

The program was set up by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to maintain and increase Virginia’s Honey Bee population. Keith Tignor is a state bee keeper or Apiarist with the department and says Virginia’s bee population is integral to pollinating dozens of kinds of crops, trees, and flowers

“The honey bee is a generalist pollinator, so they’re going to go to agriculturalist crops if that’s the closest thing that offers pollen, but they’re also go to our trees, our locust trees, tulip poplars, they’ll go to wildflowers. They’ll help to improve the diversity of our forests and meadows and wetlands in order to stabilize them” said Tignor.

To apply for a beehive you have to be at least 18-years-old and a Virginia resident, businesses, non-profits, and government agencies are not eligible. Recipients selected to get beehive equipment are required to have a colony of honeybees within a year of getting their gear. Applications will be opened through November 10.

To apply for the Beehive Distribution program on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website click here.