5 questions with Keith Fielder


July 26, 2023

Dr. Keith Fielder

Dr. Keith Fielder

This month, we check in with J. Keith Fielder, a University of Georgia Extension agent and longtime beekeeper, about the new state certification category for honey bee control and removal. Before the amendment, the Peach State’s regulations required a household pest control license to remove honey bee colonies from structures. This rule applies to the professional control and removal of an established colony in a structure, where individuals are certified to become honey bee removal (HBR) operators.

1. Because there already was a rule in place about holding a pesticide license to remove bees before this amendment, why was this new category added?

Quite frankly, there were too many consumer complaints about botched removals and structural damage by inexperienced individuals. For example, an owner of a home built in 1854 had her original plaster ceiling destroyed by a bee removal. She was on the hook for nearly $9,000 in repairs that the company didn’t warn her about or address. This amendment gives consumers recourse when a situation like this occurs. It also bolsters the reputation of bee removal professionals who would not have caused these repairs to be necessary in the first place.

There were so many complaints about homes in which load-bearing walls were cut into with a chainsaw — and other destructive activities — for which the companies involved neither warned customers about beforehand nor made any effort to correct. With the HBR certification, the Georgia Department of Agriculture is plugging a hole in the dam, so to speak. We want to eliminate fly-by-night companies and instead work with pest management companies that either have a certified HBR operator on staff or can subcontract with an HBR operator.

2. What are some highlights of what the required eight hours of pre-certification training covers?

It covers the basic identification and types of live honey bee removals: cut-out, trap-out and swarm. They need to recognize what an established colony looks like, and when to consider relocation vs. eradication. We go over each technique, covering basic construction knowledge and recommended tools. Operators must know how to find and cage the queen, prevent future infestations, save the comb and hive the bees. We also discuss potential safety and health hazards.

3. You recently taught a daylong pre-examination course for the new rule. What else is involved to become a certified HBR operator?

In addition to attending eight hours of training with a curriculum approved by the Georgia Structural Pest Control Commission, those seeking certification also must have experience participating in a minimum of three honey bee removal jobs under the direction of another HBR operator. They also need to be insured to perform the removal.

4. What else does the amended rule cover in relation to removing honey bees from a structure?

In addition to having an HBR operator perform, or at least supervise the job, the contract before work begins must include the scope of work and type of removal service. It must be issued in accordance with Federal Trade Commission rules, including the disclosure that the consumer has a three-day right of cancellation. In addition, if pesticide is needed in the removal, the operator must also hold a household pest control license.

5. How often will HBR operators need to renew their certification — and can technicians work under their company owner’s certification, or do they need to be individually certified?

Every year, HBR operators must complete five hours of approved training. This can be accomplished through a workshop, seminar, short course or other approved program that covers new information and subject matter necessary to ensure continued competence. Licensed individuals can serve as the designated certified operator (DCO) for technicians, but those technicians must directly be in the sightline of the DCO during the process.

About the Author

Heather Gooch

Heather Gooch is the editor-in-chief for PMP magazine. She can be reached at hgooch@northcoastmedia.net or 330-321-9754.

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