WAYNESBORO — Free beehive equipment will be available to Virginians thanks to the 2019 Beehive Distribution Program. Applications will be accepted starting July 1.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services program was approved for $125,000 by the General Assembly. This money is for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The program provides up to three beehive units directly to Virginia residents who are 18 or older, a news release said. People who receive equipment will be registered as beekeepers with VDACS and are required to maintain the beehives in Virginia.

“Since the introduction of exotic pests and diseases of the honey bee, the number of beehives in the state has decreased by half,” Keith Tignor, state apiarist, said in a release. “The Beehive Distribution Program will assist beekeepers, both current and those interested in beekeeping, in establishing new hives.”

Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the agriculture department, said the program, which began in 2018, was very successful in its first year.

“Applications began on July 1, 2018, and we had to close them by July 28 because of the very high demand,” she said. “Of course, it is too soon to tell how it affected the loss of beehives we've been experiencing for more than a decade. People had their hives operational for this spring, so we won't see actual verifiable results for a while. We have long believed, and the General Assembly agreed, that one of the ways to counteract our losses was to create new hives and new beekeepers.”

The agriculture department will review applications in the order they’re submitted online. When funding for the program has been exhausted, VDACS will stop accepting applications. Applications from last year do not carry over.

For more information, visit tinyurl.com/yyok2g3n.

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