On the agenda at the annual Vermont Beekeepers Association meeting this week was an item about the lack of an apiary inspector since the recent retirement of the former state inspector Steve Parise.
Association president Michael Willard says before any discussion could take place, Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross told his group that current agency employee David Tremblay will take on the job.
Tremblay works in the pesticide enforcement program at the agency and Willard feels that background will be helpful in light of concerns over the impact of pesticides on bees, particularly a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids.
As with the previous inspector, the job is not full-time and Willard says his members will be watching to see if the new inspector has time to fulfill his responsibilities.
“We were just given the information that they’re going to do the best that they can and it’s going to be an ongoing process in understanding how much time commitment the new inspector will have. We’re hoping it will be equal to what we had before,” says Willard.
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Diane Bothfeld says the apiary inspector will focus on areas deemed important by beekeepers.
In addition to monitoring diseased hives, “they wanted us to concentrate on bees in and out of state, they wanted us to concentrate on the sale of nuclei [start-up hives],” she said.
Bothfeld says the agency is using a fee collected from beekeepers to hire a seasonal inspector during the summer months, largely to help hobbyists.
The vast majority of the 810 beekepers registered with the agency are hobbyists — or "sideliners" — but there are a number of commercial apiaries in the state.
Mike Palmer of French Hill Apiaries in St. Albans has more than 700 hives in production and another 700 nucleus colonies that are used to start new hives.
Palmer is concerned the state can’t quickly respond to the spread of destructive bee diseases like American Foulbrood, which can threaten his livelihood.
“If somebody brings bees unpermitted into the state, I can’t get an inspector to go check it out. It takes forever,” says Palmer. “It’s against the law to bring here from out of state without an inspection permit and certificate.”
Palmer says the state needs to devote more time and resources to inspections.