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Archive for the ‘Laws Governing Apiaries’ Category

"And the next time I come for my inspection, I expect your hive to be tidy!"

As I scrolled through a bee-related email in my inbox yesterday, I discovered at the bottom of the message this little tidbit:

King County 21A.30.020 of K.C.C. 11.04

All colonies shall be registered with the County Extension agent prior to April 1st of each year, on a state registration form acceptable to the county.

This gave me pause as I had no idea that I was supposed to register my hives and wondered what the purpose and benefits of registering would be. I have to admit that given the difficulty of the struggle to legalize city chickens and other urban livestock, I initially felt reluctant to register my hives. I immediately imagined clandestine visits from be-suited gentlemen ready to dismantle my freshly crafted rooftop system.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture website is woefully lacking in reasons for registering your bees and a description of what bee inspectors can offer to the apiarist. However, looking across different states and their apiary registration requirements (Tennessee and Illinois particularly have it figured out), it seems that three solid reasons exist for registering bees:

  1. Collecting data and samples for learning more about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and other bee-related maladies;
  2. Getting alerts as to disease outbreaks, particularly foulbrood; and
  3. Protecting bees from pesticide exposure.

Of course, protecting bees from pesticide exposure is more of a hazard in rural areas where large farms might use crop dusters, and pesticide drift must be planned for. However, should there be a potential exposure to something hazardous for my bees, I would want to be alerted. Likewise if there is a disease outbreak.

Collecting data and samples is something that I voluntarily want to be part of. So, I downloaded the registration form and am sending in my $5 to become a registered apiarist in the State of Washington.  I have to admit that I rather like the official title. And the ironic deliciousness of it as my first bee packages haven’t even arrived!

Because the code also states that bees must be kept in moveable frames, if I had decided to experiment with Warre or top bar hives (which ha

ve fixed frames) I might opt not to register. Which seems a pity from a research perspective. If we want to collect data on incidence of disease, CCD and other bee maladies, it would be useful to be able to compare types of hives. Some beekeepers postulate that foundationless beekeeping, which allows bees to revert to a more natural, smaller size, helps strengthen bees against Varroa mites and other ills. If all types of hives were registered, that data could more easily be compared.

And if I decide to experiment with Warre in the future, I will have to sacrifice my official title in the name of science. Such are the trials of the backyard beekeeper!

For your own research: Puget Sound Beekeepers maintains a page of links to local and state beekeping regulations. And here is a direct link to the Washington State Code.

Update: For a quick link to the WA State apiary registration form, click here.

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