What’s Happening: APHIS plans to release 2 non-native pests (a moth & a beetle from China) to eventually eradicate the Tallow tree from the USA. Tallow has been in the USA since the 1700s and is an important source of nectar and pollen for up to a million beehives. This will negatively impact all scales of beekeepers nationwide.
Why it Matters: Releasing a beetle from China & a moth (with the potential to jump hosts) to control the most bee friendly tree in the USA is the last thing our honeybees need right now. Tallow provides irreplaceable forage for spring build up in the south, tens of millions of pounds of honey, and accounts for up to 90% of all honey produced in some states. The loss of the tallow crop could permanently impact all scales of beekeepers nationwide as queen, nuc & package producers suffer the loss of critical forage. Operations will go out of business, and nationwide supply will be disrupted. The scale & threat of this impact cannot be overstated.
In May of 2017, the AHPA Executive Committee met with APHIS and discussed the proposed release of a Chinese flea beetle as a biocontrol agent of tallow trees. Later that year, we provided them with some information about tallow and its importance to beekeepers.
In November 2017, APHIS released a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for its proposed action entitled “Field Release of the Flea Beetle, Bikasha collaris (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), for Classical Biological Control of Chinese Tallow Tree, Triadica sebifera (Euphorbiaceae), in the Contiguous United States.” It focused on the negative aspects of tallow, ignoring its value and importance to honey bees and the bee industry.
In 2018, an AHPA and Tallow Task Force letter-writing campaign resulted in numerous letters sent to APHIS in opposition of the planned release. We collected letters from individual beekeepers, packers, and state organizations across the SE United States.
But in 2019, there was no communication from APHIS.
In 2021, the comment period was extended until June. There were 900+ comments submitted to AHPIS. The AHPA document was submitted as a joint comment of the AHPA and ABF.
In June of 2022, AHPA began the search for an Economist to conduct a study to determine the value of tallow to the economy.
The Economic study is estimated to take 3-4 months once funding has been secured. We have no real idea when APHIS will make a decision. We do know that the working group will most likely need to collect additional data next summer and then conduct their analysis. The best guess of when their study will be complete is sometime in 2024.
The AHPA wants input from its members and Commercial Beekeepers in the Southern States. Please open this survey link, https://forms.gle/T3sxeYLTq5SEyZPM7 and help support honey bees and beekeepers.