Government, not content with its current levels of death and economic destruction, has activated yet another one of it’s invasive tendrils to this time seek out and choke the livelihood of Gulf Coast beekeepers. Let’s all take a break from grieving our colonies that just froze to death to see what our central planners have scheduled into our calendar of troubles.
….*Enter our latest boogie-man, stage left*
Triadica sebiferais, or the Chinese tallow tree, is ubiquitous to the Gulf Coast but certainly ranges further north. It goes by many names; “Popcorn tree, Florida Aspen, Chicken tree, Candleberry tree, and probably a few I’ve never heard of. Most of you reading this are probably familiar with it even if you think you aren’t and if I presented you with the heart-shaped leaves or the “fruit” would likely say “Oh yeah, that tree!”
So, what’s the issue? Well, it’s considered an invasive/non-native plant species by the USDA and now they want to introduce a couple of non-native insects, Bikasha collaris and Gadirtha fusca to kill it off. I know, what could possibly go wrong, right?
The plan to move forward with this was supposed to be locked in about a month ago but they’ve extended the comment period to April 23rd at the request of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) and others. I invite you to visit that link and look at the sample letter that they provide as a template of concerns that might overlap with your own as a beekeeper or as a concerned citizen. What kind of loss are we looking at if they decide to release these insects and obliterate the tallow tree? Well, we don’t really know because although the USDA performed an environmental assessment, they neglected to do an economic one, but it’s not hard to ballpark it.
We’d see about a 75% loss of honey production, a massive hit to bee forage and nutrition with a corresponding massive hit to bee production including shipping-queens, which would result in fewer bees for fruit and vegetable pollination (not only in the South), which would result in income loss, which would of course result in job loss. Don’t just take my word for it, here’s a Beekeeping Today interview with Steven Coy, Executive Board member of AHPA, giving his view of the situation (segment begins at the 10:45 min mark).
Now it’s commonly stated that Benjamin Franklin brought these trees over from China in the 1700s for commercial purposes and they are still used for commercial purposes. However, more recent studies suggest they may have been introduced by “Federal biologists around 1905” (y’all seeing a pattern here?). Either way, they’ve been around for a while so I’m not sure where this sudden sense of urgency to get rid of them is coming from unless it’s the usual follow-the-money type of deal, but that would be cynical of me and dang-it, it’s Spring and time for gardening and optimism!
So, let’s just say there’s probably a lot of misguided intention behind all this and nothing a little good communication can’t clear up! So, if you would please, click on the first link provided below and leave a comment there about your views on this proposed plan. The sooner the better. Thanks!
APHIS Request for Comments on Chinese Tallow Tree Elimination – https://www.regulations.gov/docket/APHIS-2020-0035/document
American Honey Producers, Chinese Tallow & APHIS – https://www.ahpanet.com/tallowinfo