Sunday, February 26, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy

Another nice warm day, albeit a bit windy... And the girls were out in force!

I was considering looking inside the hive just to see how things were doing. If it was less windy I probably would have, but when I saw all the activity I thought there was little point. Tons of pollen is being brought in. I may throw on some sugar mush but I think things are looking just fine for now

I will look soon, early March most likely!

Trivia Night!

The local Elementary School had it's annual Trivia Night on Friday. The theme was "Party Like a Rock Star" which in some way goes to explain wy I'm dressed like Freddie Mercury!

Anyway, I donated two "Bee in a Bonnet" honey baskets. Clear and Set honey, beeswax and a massage bar. Amazingly I raised $85- which I am very proud of! OK so I have some way to go to beat Bill Turnbull's record of about $7,500 for a pound of his honey!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spring Preparations

I now feel spring is on the way! Last weekend saw the annual EMBA seminar and this weekend I made a new hive stand in a neighbour's yard just down the street. This new stand will be for my relocated bees from the city. I think I will try to move them in the coming couple of weeks.

I must also think about ordering new queens for my current hives.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Beekeeping Insurance - painful and pointless

I was contacted just before Christmas by my insurance agent over the fact I keep bees in my back yard.  I have a suburban lot in Kirkwood, Missouri, (a suburb of St. Louis) and I have two hives in my back yard.

My agent apparently did a routine inspection of my house (I guess as a result of me refinancing my home) and saw the hives and decided this was a risk they could only cover by putting my home on a small farm policy. Coincidentally this cost three times my household insurance policy!  They claimed they were concerned about the elevated risk of people suing me due to stings and possible allergic reactions. Thoughtfully they did add that my future policy would also cover me for selling products that might later make someone ill! I was assured that research had been done with several insurance companies to see if there may be policies that can cover me for keeping bees.  Apparently, I was told, none do! My insurance is currently was with American Family Insurance.
My initial reaction was that this was simply opportunistic.  When asked, my agent told me that most people when confronted with this issue give up keeping bees on their property!  So I can only assume that people who do keep bees in their yards do so either unaware, or in contravention of their insurance policies or they have never had their properties 'inspected' i.e. what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve for! 
I was hugely irritated by the assumption that I am (or rather my bees) are assumed to be the guilty party if someone gets stung. My agent said that if someone gets stung in my neighbourhood they may be able to sue me without proving the sting came from one of my bees.  The logic is that because I keep bees I have an elevated profile, so I am assumed to be the party responsible! It seems strange that I would have to prove it wasn't one of my bees in order to avoid being sued.  I think proving one way or the other would be extremely difficult. Anyway, I live in an area where there are several backyard beekeepers living within a small radius  - perhaps 200 yards. 
I decided to contact someone about this.  My beekeeper friends didn’t know much - they don’t have insurance! So I put an email into Kim Flottam at Bee Culture, and got a very prompt reply! Unfortunately he could not supply a name of a company or organization but he expressed his interest in finding out what I ended up doing, and he published my account of what happened initially in the letters page of the February issue of Bee Culture.
Armed with some moral support I embarked on my own research, calling up local contacts, other brokers and Texas Insurance and Financial Services who advertise in ABJ. TIFS (like most companies I called) were more used to dealing with company insurance not insuring the hobbyist / backyard beekeeper. But they nevertheless looked into my predicament and were surprised by my insurance company's approach and sympathetic to my plight!
It turns out that the insurance policy is was offered in Missouri (coverage is different across the states) is basically a farm insurance! Not sure why it has to be a farm, but hey, what do I know! The cover includes for third parties (passers by, trespassers I guess) and also covers my liability with respect to the products I sell (up to a ceiling of $2,000). If I sell more I become a business, albeit a small one I guess.  However, the documentation I have received does not include any mention of beekeeping! The only thing I have is a note from the insurance company in an email which states:
"State Auto has not excluded coverage for beekeepers. The key is: Is it a hobby? If it is a business, it is excluded by form. If it is a hobby, coverage is automatic."
Pretty key I'd say!!!
So this left me asking "What have I learnt?". Well, basically that:
  1. Insurance companies are still generally greedy, opportunistic racketeers and have no scruples - my early view has not changed much!
  2. The risk of keeping bees is low as is borne out by the rarity of anyone ever being sued for negligence - I challenge you to find any!
  3. That if your insurance company doesn't specifically exclude beekeeping you're good!
  4. If you are challenged by your broker, tell them to show you exactly where in your policy beekeeping is excluded.
  5. If you feel you need insurance cover call Texas Insurance and Financial Services - Allison Moseley was very helpful.
Now the dust has settled I find that, overall, my insurance costs have not significantly increased from before I was "outed" as a backyard beekeeper. In fact I now gave a better auto insurance policy, mainly because I was damned if I was going to keep any business with American Family Insurance!  Finally, and possibly the biggest lesson, was learning you should regularly review your insurance for the best deal and don't just assume your broker is doing their best for you!  All they want is easy money and there is nothing easier than sitting back waiting for your clients to renew their policy without thinking, or helping them!!!