The NC New Beekeeper Cost-sharing Program
Please note that the statewide New Beekeeper Cost-sharing program was conducted in 2005, thus we are not accepting applications at this time. However, several county chapters of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association (NCSBA) may be providing hives to students in their beekeeping short course, so you may wish to visit the NCSBA website for more information.
The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a vital component of agriculture in North Carolina. Honey bees and the products of the hive, including honey, pollen, and bees wax account for approximately $10 million dollars annually in the state. However, the products derived directly from honey bees are only a small part of their true value. As bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, they transfer pollen grains from one flower to another, which fertilizes them and produces fruit and seeds. Without visits from bees, many crops would have lower yields and produce foods of lower quality. In North Carolina, many of the economically important crops, such as cucumbers, apples, blueberries, and melons are dependent on honey bees for pollination and account for $100 million dollars every year.
Unfortunately, the fate of the honey bee in North Carolina is in question. Because of pests and diseases that have been introduced from other parts of the world, the honey bee population has declined dramatically in the past 20 years. It has been estimated that 98% of the feral (wild) colonies have been eliminated. The numbers of managed colonies have also suffered, dropping in number from a high of 180,000 in the late 1980's to approximately 100,000 at present. Due to the lack of feral colonies, it is of great importance to maintain the numbers of managed honey bee colonies to insure adequate crop pollination.
The pest that has proven the most serious problem for the honey bee is the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor). This is a small mite that lives on honey bees and feeds on the developing bee larvae. A colony of bees can tolerate small numbers of these mites, but when the population of the mites in a bee colony reaches a critical level, the number of bees begins to decline and eventually the colony becomes so weak that it dies. Recent studies have shown that some honey bees have a greater resistance to this mite than others. The Russian honey bee is one that has shown to have a greater resistance.
The Apiculture program at North Carolina State University, with funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation of North Carolina, is promoting a program to increase the number of active beekeepers and honey bee colonies in the state of North Carolina. The program will be open to all residents of North Carolina that are interested in learning the art of beekeeping. The program is a cost-sharing program. Each participant may be able to receive two colonies of Russian honey bees with bee hives, but additional materials—such as protective clothing, smokers, and additional hive equipment (which may cost anywhere from $50-$150 per hive)—will be the responsibility of the individual.The eligibility requirements for the program are:
- applicant must be a current resident of North Carolina
- applicant must be a current member, or willing to join, a local beekeeping organization
- applicant must pick up bees and equipment at specified location on specified date (April 2005)
- only one application per household
Additionally, in order to be considered for the program, applicants must agree to acknowledge the receipt of materials by phone or e-mail; agree not to sell materials obtained through the program within 2 years after receipt; agree to return the bees and materials upon quitting the program; agree to respond to a follow-up survey; assume personal liability for all materials, including honey bees; and be willing to collect and share data related to the project.
All interested parties must fill out an application and return it to the appropriate location no later than February 11, 2005. Applicants will be screened for eligibility by a panel of NCSU program administrators, officers of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association (NCSBA), and NCDA Apiary Inspectors. Interest in the program does not imply acceptance; demand may exceed our limited supply of resources, in which case participants will be chosen through a lottery system.
Successful candidates will be notified by program administrators in early March and will be given further instructions about how to participate. Participants will be assigned a local beekeeper mentor through the NCSBA and their local county chapters. The mentors will volunteer their time and work with each participant to guide their progress, assist their development, and foster their beekeeping skills.