A new beehive grant program supports honeybee helpers.
Honeybee populations are declining by approximately 30 percent each winter, says Keith Tignor, state apiarist of Virginia. Multiple factors are to blame, including the varrao mite, the small hive beetle, drought, queen failure and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, which Tignor describes as “a rapid dwindling of the adult population. You’ll see no [worker] bees or very few left behind.”
To encourage the growth of new colonies, the 2012 General Assembly set up a two-year, $250,000 Beehive Grant Program, administered through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Applicants may receive up to $200 per new hive with a maximum of $2,400. The program has been met with enthusiasm; the $125,000 of funding available in 2013 is already allocated.
Those looking to help honeybees in Virginia can get started with a brood box and a hive for about $300 to $500, says Cabell Cox, owner and founder of The Grow Co., a Charlottesville landscape design/build firm that specializes in edible gardens, orchards and sustainable structures. Cox, who began beekeeping three-and-a-half years ago, has seen an increase in interest in The Grow Co.’s apiary services and bee boxes, including a custom-built “window frame” version that allows for easy viewing of colonies. For an extra charge, the company will also extract honey from the hive and deliver it to customers in their own personalized jars.
Cox began keeping bees as a way to help the pollination and cross-pollination of his crops. “My main interest was to increase my yield at harvest, and bees are great for that.” But he found it “such a rewarding experience to be able to take care of the bees and also get something that’s so rich and tasty in flavor as honey.”