ATHENS, Ga. — When a swarm of honeybees takes up residence in your house, you may not know who to call to help safely relocate the pollinators and preserve your home in the process. Thanks to a new certification program through the Georgia Structural Pest Control Commission and the Georgia Department of Agriculture called Honeybee Control and Removal (HBR), it will be easier for residents to locate licensed professionals to handle the job.
The new program was developed after updated pest control regulations were passed requiring all companies and operators who provide HBR in Georgia to be certified and licensed by Jan. 1, 2023.
“This is a great new program because now Georgia consumers will be able to hire professionals for honeybee removal,” said Derrick Lastinger, Structural Pest Division director for the Georgia Department of Agriculture. “You want someone knowledgeable about construction if they are going to be opening up walls to remove a hive and then be able to safely rehome the bees.”
Since the 1950s, Georgia state law has required companies and individuals to have a pest control license to perform honeybee removals. However, when the new regulation goes into place next year, operators will need to take the training class, participate in three HBR jobs and pass a test to be certified in HBR. The new law also prohibits the use of pesticides in honeybee removal to protect pollinator populations. The certification for an HBR operator is valid for five years and requires continuing education classes.
HBR certification training is already underway, including a class held on the University of Georgia Griffin campus in October with more than 30 attendees. Dan Suiter, UGA Extension entomologist and professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, covered state and federal laws; honeybee identification, location and removal techniques, including basic construction knowledge; recommended tools; and how to prevent future infestations. The workshop defined the difference between eradication and relocation of honeybees, including identifying common insecticides/pesticides applied to bees by homeowners, as well as potential safety and health hazards. The training class was the second state certification offered.
The new regulation is designed to protect both consumers and HBR operators by establishing a minimum competency standard for HBR operators and a state-issued license, supporting professional honeybee control by creating a state certification for a removal service.
The regulation also supports honeybee conservation and promotes honeybee removal and relocation without killing the colony, which supports agriculture through the protection of honey and related products and the pollination of crops.
A growing need for HBR services throughout the state of Georgia led Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black to call for an update to the regulations, and work on the new requirements began in 2019 involving extensive feedback from individuals, state partners and organizations.
Bobby Chaisson, operations director for the private company Georgia Bee Removal, was heavily involved in the curriculum for the certification class and is happy to see standard operating procedures established for the honeybee removal industry.
“I think this is a great program as it brings a standard to the bee removal industry,” said Chaisson. “With all of the groundwork we have done through creating manuals and training, we have a firmer foundation and pathway to recognize bee keeping and removal as a professional service. We hope this program also helps others recognize the importance and all that it takes for beekeepers to do what we do.”
Learn more about honey bee swarms and bees in walls at extension.uga.edu/publications. More information on the Honeybee Control and Removal program can be found on the Georgia Department of Agriculture website.
— University of Georgia CAES