It shouldn’t be a complete surprise. Ohio’s inspection program has been dwindleing for some time now as state inspectors retire and aren’t replaced. However, I got that gut feeling that something terribly wrong when my 2009 apiary registration came in an envelope marked ‘Emerald Ash Borer Program’. I know the program was litterally down to one state inspector, but now it was looking like the Apiary Division of the Ohio Department of Agriculture which once has several inspectors and a secretary was demoted to a lone inspector given a corner in another programs office.
Not long after I received news report about the loss of Ohio’s inspectors. 4 more counties had dropped their inspection program and the last remaining inspector at the state, Andy Kartal, will likely retire mid year and I honestly don’t believe he will be replaced. At best I suspect his many, many years of experience will be replace by a plant pest inspector, likely with little experience with bees, and will serve double duty as state bee inspector and plant pest inspector. Even a single full time inspector can’t begin to cover the state, including the growing list of counties with no county inspector, so this could put the state inspection program in a comatose state. It may still be there, but virtually lifeless.
Does this mean disease will be on the increase in the coming years? Perhaps, after all the inspection programs started due to widespread disease (mainly American Foul Brood) and the inspection program effectively brought it under control. But perhaps the worst thing besides this and the lack of a valuable resource for new beekeepers is the negative impact to beekeeping research just when it is needed most. Inspectors often provide valuable information to research programs and are often partners in the process (See The Fate of Bee Inspection in the U.S, Bee Culture 2003).
Want to see a change? Talk to your county officials (they pay for the county inspector), and your state representatives both at the state and national levels. I know everyone is asking for money right now and everyone needs to do their share of belt tightening, but we can’t afford to completely eliminate funding for beekeeping without paying far more in the future.