Learning that my state offers a grant program to encourage new hives and beekeepers, I assumed the state would share friendly beekeeping laws. However state code § 3.2-4403. Duties of beekeepers caught me off guard. Specifically:
1. Provide movable frames with combs or foundation in all hives used by them to contain bees, except for short periods, not to exceed the first spring honey flow, and to cause the bees in such hives to construct brood combs in such frames so that any of the frames may be removed from the hive without injuring other combs in such hive;
As raccoon, opossum, mice and skunks are part of the natural ecosystem of my farm, I had been planning to utilize Top Bar Hives as I feel they provide the best intruder-free bee habitat opposed to Langstroth Hives people most associate with beekeeping. However that State code I included above made me wonder if the top bars in my hive design are considered “moveable frames”.
A quick call to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services put me in touch with a extremely knowledgeable individual in Mr. Keith Tignor. In the span of 4 minutes he explained in great but easy to digest detail the law, how to design a top bar to fit into the law, the reason the law exists (protect the hive from damage when inspecting for disease), and how to utilize the state grant program.
All I need to do is design my hive so that brood comb can be removed without damaging it. Furthermore, this lets me build my own hives from wood milled on farm which preserves the grant funds for other beekeepers!
It was a win-win-win for everyone involved.