What You Need To Know About Beekeeping Laws

The fact that bees are battling for survival for more than a decade already has led to many awareness campaigns spearheaded by both small and large communities. With those awareness campaigns, government authorities have given this concern more attention and funding due to the catastrophic consequences the human species will face if the bee population continues to decline or ceases to exist.

One of the many benefits that this kind of attention has given the beekeeping community is that rules, regulations and best practices were put in place not just for the benefit of the beekeeping community but also for the bees. Urban beekeeping also was introduced to help the bee population flourish. As long as a beekeeper follow the rules and regulations set by the state they are in, they are allowed to practice keep bees in urban areas. You’ll learn more about beekeeping laws further in this article.

United States Beekeeping Law


To date, uniformity of beekeeping state laws and regulations is still lacking. The “Honeybee Act”, which is a federal legislation put into action on August 31, 1922 and then further amended and improved the years 1947, 1962 and 1976; is a law that prevents the importation of honeybees or honeybee semen into the country unless sanctioned by the Secretary of Agriculture, to prevent the spread of bee diseases from outside the country into the US soil.

Did you know? Anyone who is found to be guilty of breaching this law will be charged with a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of not more than one year or both.

Unapproved honey bees or honey bee semen will also be exported or destroyed upon discovery. To further keep the beekeeping community regulated and safe from bee diseases, an inspection law has been put in place. 

We can thank the beekeeping community of San Bernardino in the county of California for being the first to enact this inspection law back in 1877. By 1883, a statewide law in the same county has been written and by 1906, more than 10 states have laws relating to a bee disease called “foul brood”. At present, all states have rules and regulations in place for the beekeeping community to follow. For more information on Bee Diseases, please see our other article: https://schoolofbees.com/do-bees-carry-diseases/.

Basically, the Honeybee Act deals with the regulation of movement or entry of honeybees, issuance of permits and certificates, locating and controlling all apiary through inspection, quarantine, treatment and disposal of diseased bee colonies. Although, each state might have some varying differences when it comes to the beekeeping rules and regulations most will require beekeepers to fulfill or follow these basic rules.

  • Apiary Registration – all owners will have to register their apiary, no matter how big or small.
  • Permits – Beekeepers are also required to ask for a permit to move their honeybees and equipment interstate.
  • Certificate of Inspection – authorize government agency will give a beekeeper a certificate stating that their apiary underwent and passed proper inspection under an authorized inspector.
  • Right of Entry – all beekeepers will provide the government sanctioned inspector a right of entry into their apiary.
  • Moveable Frame Hives – The regulation states that all man-made beehives are recommended to use moveable frames in their hives to provide better access to bees during inspection.
  • Notification – All beekeepers must report any kind of parasite or disease afflicting their colonies to the proper authorities.
  • Quarantine – the state reserves the rights to quarantine colonies or apiaries that came out positive for foulbrood disease or any other form of bee disease as well as parasites.
  • The government agency concerned in regulating the beekeeping community is also given the authority to prohibit the sale or transfer of equipment and materials from diseased colonies to other apiary or beekeeper.
  • Fines, Penalties and Jail time – A person found to be guilty in violating the rules and regulations set forth by the government will face fines, penalties and/or jail time depending on the severity and history of the beekeeper.

Canadian Beekeeping Laws


With the advent of industrialization, the Canadian beekeeping laws underwent major revision since their beekeeping community has evolved into the business aspect of beekeeping. Before, their laws, rules and regulations were mainly centered in providing some form of structured set of rules for the beekeeping hobbyists, now business tycoons who owns thousands of bee hives and large scale apiary have now entered the picture. The basics are still there but additions and provisions for the business side of the beekeeping industry are now inserted to cover that aspect.

Did you know? Canada still requires their beekeepers to register their apiary, no matter the size.

Annual registration of the beehives is the first step for beekeepers. In Ontario, Canada, it is the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) who is in charge of the apiary registrations. The registration included pertinent information of the apiary like the location of the hive and the number of honeybee colonies the applicant owns.

Let’s stick to Ontario as our example for the Canadian beekeeping laws because each city has the authority to create regulations and rules according to the needs of their jurisdiction. Under the “Bees Act” of Ontario, apiary inspections shall only be conducted by inspectors who are appointed by the ministry. 

The inspectors main duties include but are not limited to inspect any bee equipment including bees for signs of pests and diseases, to ascertain if the owner of the apiary is following with the set of laws laid down by the ministry. It is also the duty of the inspector to take a close look at the books and records kept by the beekeeper or the owner of the apiary who sells bees for profit. He is also the one who determines of the apiary is worthy of a permit or not.

Just like in the US, the Canadain beekeeping laws are here to help the beekeeping community in making sure that diseases and pests are properly culled before it starts a widespread epidemic for the bee population. Expect to find similar regulations under the Canadian beekeeping laws since they are both dealing with the same issues.

  • Owners of apiary needs to apply for a permit to sell and purchase honey bees.
  • Anyone who owns a hive needs to report pests or diseases at first sign.
  • Movable frames are required for a permit to be issued. Any hives that does not have moveable frames are required to be moved for better inspection.
  • At the discovery of a dead colony, the owner must report this to the ministry for proper disposal.
  • Beekeepers who owns any number of beehives must put up proper warning signage, especially if the beekeeper is practicing urban beekeeping. Putting up signage and posting that warns passersby of the presence of bees in the vicinity is mandatory.
  • Certain distance requirements to residential areas for large scale beekeeping industry is set by the ministry. Urban beekeepers have different set of distance requirements in this aspect.
  • Legally registered treatment of honey bee diseases are available for beekeepers to check out and this updated every year to make sure that new treatments or upgraded version of the existing treatments are available.
  • For those who are keeping bees to take advantage of the honey production, there is a set of requirements for the safe production of honey that needs to be followed.
  • The ministry have the right to cancel the registration of an existing apiary if requirements are not met.
  • Penalties, fines and charges are determined by the local Lieutenant Governor of the ministry. However, first offence committers can be liable for a fine of not more than $2,000 and for the subsequent offences a fine of not more than $5,000.

These regulation laws and rules can be amended and revised in the future by the government. You may see some differences in the regulations as you move from city to city. This is because the Bees Act is written and enacted in Ontario but other cities are adopting the same concept and putting their own revisions and additions to it depending on their needs and territory. It is highly recommended to first determine what rules and regulations your city has in place before you even start looking at beekeeping.

Urban Beekeeping Laws

Being one of the most populated and developed states in the US, the New York state law, Department of Agriculture and Markets, together with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene came up with general tips on urban beekeeping. However, these general tips can only be practiced in cities and states that allow urban beekeeping.

The urban beekeeping society is fairly new, that is why there are only a few cities that straight out prohibit urban beekeeping. Areas that allow these practice came up with some form of ordinance that regulates the beekeeping society. Below are some of these rules that are followed by these cities.

  • Limited number of hives.
  • A strict requirement to register hives with in 30 days of establishment
  • All beekeepers must report outbreaks of bee disease or pests.

Below are the general tips or best practices that the New York state advice would be beekeepers and current beekeepers to follow. Other states might have a different set but I am already telling you that these best practices will all be under similar context no matter where you are.

  • All established hives must be located as far as possible from any areas with possible human activity such as roads, pathways, sidewalks and right of ways.
  • No hives must be put directly against a neighbors property boundary. This will only be possible if there is a six foot or higher dense plant barrier or a solid fence separating the properties.
  • Hives that are located in areas where their flight path might intercede with humans right of way must either be moved or a fence or any barrier should be placed to redirect the flight path of bees.
  • Beekeepers should provide adequate and desirable fresh water source for their bees to prevent them from seeking water in neighboring areas where they may cause some problems.
  • Swarming should either be managed properly, prevented or minimized if possible. It is suggested to re-queen any hives that displays swarming tendencies or aggressive behavior to avoid further issues.
  • Proper warning signs and posters must be put up by the beekeeper to alert any passerby of the presence of hives.
  • Bee colonies must be maintained in moveable frame hives.

Municipalities that allows urban beekeeping also has a “bee nuisance law” in place and this is described as “any conditions that include, but not be limited to, aggressive or objectionable bee behaviors, hive placement or bee movement that interferes with pedestrian traffic or persons residing on or adjacent to the hive premises; and overcrowded, deceased or abandoned hives.” The best practices mentioned above would greatly help a beekeeper avoid getting reported to authorities. And to be honest, I think that these practices can be applied wherever you are!

Reasons for the Laws

The importance of bees to our ecosystem has been the core of every save the bees campaigns, movements and foundations. However, this is also the same reason why large corporations sees the beekeeping industry as a big business opportunity. And as mentioned in the previous section of this article, several amendments are made to beekeeping laws so that it encompasses the billion dollar industry of beekeeping.

Mainly, these large corporations will benefit mostly in the prevention, isolation and detection of diseases in bees section of the law. With the current colony collapse disorder that the bees are facing, these big-time business owners are also facing huge losses on their part. This is the same reason why the importation of honey bee species and subspecies are strictly regulated by the government. If the large corporations are feeling the loss, small scale beekeeping communities are devastated with it.

The government are regulating the movement of honeybees interstate to prevent the spread of disease from one place to another. Equipment and tools are also covered in the regulation because it may or may not contain viruses that can cause a colony collapse if not properly handled. Furthermore, importing bees from other countries are strictly prohibited as bees from other countries does not have the same immunity level than the native bees of the country. Allowing the entrance of foreign bee species may lead to new strains of viruses that can cause new types of diseases for the bees.

Now that the bees have been given voice the community looked for ways on how to help increase the population of bees, thus urban beekeeping was introduced. However, there are plenty who opposes the permission of this practice because of different reasons. One is that there are a small percentage of the human population who are extremely allergic to bee venom. And even if you are not allergic to bee venom getting stung is not something that anyone would be looking forward to. Regulating the number of hives placed in a certain area is needed to prevent having too many bees in one area, which can lead to a higher possibility of getting stung.

In the US, each state has a different set of rules and regulations for urban beekeeping and some states do prohibit residential beekeeping. The best way to learn if you can practice is to visit the Department of Agriculture site of each state and look for beekeeping rules and regulations before starting this hobby. In other countries, certain practices are recommended by the government for beekeepers to follow to avoid getting reported as a nuisance. One of my friends define this kind of law as the “basic common decency” law because what it basically says is to be considerate of others in your immediate vicinity!


We owe the bees a lot, especially in the pollination of the majority of our crops. It is just right that we try and help them get through this tough times they are facing. However, since the industrialization of beekeeping, the advent of commercialized bee species and the introduction of urban beekeeping practice, governments have seen that the existing laws, rules and regulations needed some update. Yes, we know that bees do need our help for them to survive but this should be done is a manner that will not produce a nuisance effect to us humans. This is why amendments, additions and modifications are made.

Basically, what you need to know about beekeeping laws no matter where you are is that as a beekeeper it is your duty to register, manage, and follow the rules set forth by your government to avoid problems in the future. Regardless if you are a huge multi-billion company or an urban beekeeper, these laws are put in place to keep not just the bees healthy but also the humans happy.

Even if you are allergic to bee venom, you have the ability to support the bee’s cause by buying from local farmers or by sponsoring a hive. This way, you get to help the bees without really being near the bees!

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