COLLEGE STATION — Texas Apiary Inspection Service officials are busy rerouting trap lines across the state to compensate for the closure of a federal agency’s Africanized Honey Bee program.
“We’re in the process of putting up some more traps. I believe we’ll pick up west of Austin to Ozona and from San Angelo to Killeen,” said Dr. Horace Van Cleave, an entomologist for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station which operates the inspection service.
Van Cleave said the agency already inspects a line from Eastland to Waco to Buffalo, a line from Austin to Beaumont and a line from Somerville to Temple. The Honey Bee Identification Lab at Texas A&M University will continue, he added.
The addition of trap lines run by the apiary inspection service comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced it would close all operations in Texas.
The APHIS lines, which spanned from the Rio Grande Valley throughout Central Texas and to the New Mexican border, were eliminated at the end of August, according to Elba Quintero, APHIS Africanized Honey Bee program coordinator. She said the lab where honey bees have been analyzed in Harlingen will close by the end of September.
Quintero cited budgetary reasons for her agency’s decision to scale back on the Africanized Honey Bee effort in all states, not just Texas.
“In order to be of help to other states as well as Texas, we had to go to another mode of operation,” she said. “We expect to have cooperative agreements with the states that will enable us to assist with the supplies for field trapping and actual lab activities. But the states will have to do the work.”
As APHIS operations close in Harlingen, Quintero’s offices will relocate to Phoenix. Arizona already has found Africanized honey bees along its border, and California is preparing for the insect’s arrival within a year.
Texas officials will continue to monitor trap lines to determine the migration pattern of the bees. So far, 68 counties are quarantined, meaning that commercial beekeepers can move their hives within but not out of that zone. That is an attempt to reduce the chance of spreading the Africanized bees by artificial means.