New Rules of Beekeeping: Made Simple

Confused by the changes that came in on July 1? Here's our simple rundown on what's new and what beekeepers must do now. It's easy once you understand the rules.

What every amateur beekeeper needs to know – right now

The rules of beekeeping in NSW changed on July 1, 2017. We are now governed by provisions of the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015. This takes the place of the Apiaries Act 1985 and other acts covering a range of agriculture, which have now been repealed.

The new legislation, as it relates to bees, aims to minimise the impact of pests and diseases on the NSW apiary industry, and minimise the impact of nuisance bees and threats to public safety in our community.

So for amateur beekeepers how much will change?

These actions remain mandatory:

  • Register as a beekeeper if you have at least one hive

  • Display your registration number clearly on the external side of a box of every hive

  • Notify the DPI if you identify or suspect your bees have specified endemic pests or diseases such as American foulbrood (AFB), chalkbrood and small hive beetle within one working day of becoming aware of the problem

  • Notify the presence or suspected presence of pests and diseases not endemic in NSW or Australia such as varroa mite, braula fly and Asian honey bee immediately

  • Contain honey so it is not exposed to robber bees

  • Obtain health certificates to move bees, hives, honey and apiary products into and out of NSW

  • Maintain clear access to all beehives

  • Ensure any apiary products you feed to bees are free from AFB

  • Keep bees in a hive with moveable frames in the brood chamber

  • Record hive movements, lost or stolen hives and sales or disposals.

So, what is new?

It is now deemed that if you deal with bees, beehives, hive material or apiary products then you ought to know the biosecurity risk posed by these things. And you have a duty to ensure that, so far as reasonable, that risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised. This is your General Biosecurity Duty (GBD).

Failing in your General Biosecurity Duty is now an offence for which fines can be imposed - daily. The penalties are harsher if your failure is intentional or reckless and caused – or was likely to cause – a significant biosecurity impact.

Basic information on how to practice good apiary biosecurity is set out in The Australian Honey Bee Industry Code of Practice (the Code). The Code stipulates that beekeepers must control or eradicate pests and diseases and must manage weak hives. The Code requires every beekeeper to examine at least three frames of brood from each apiary under their control as often as necessary to minimise the spread of pests and diseases and at least twice a year. The beekeeper must record dates of inspections, observations and actions.

If a beekeeper complies with all the requirements set out in the Code, they will be deemed to be discharging their General Biosecurity Duty. 

This Code aims to provide a clear framework for Australian beekeepers to engage in best-practice biosecurity. This Code is now mandatory. The obligations for beekeepers with over 50 hives are greater, including completing accredited courses and getting honey tested annually for AFB.

Let's look at an example

A person has three hives and is registered as a beekeeper. They then lose interest in the hives and don’t go near them for a couple of years. They fail to renew their registration. Two of the hives become weak and die out.

An inspector discovers the hives and examines them. Two hives are dead. One of the dead hives is slimed out. The other dead hive has a rats’ nest and wax moth damage. The remaining hive is healthy. The cause of the hive deaths cannot be determined visually. Samples from the dead hives are negative for American Foulbrood (AFB) and European Foulbrood (EFB).

The beekeeper’s first offence:

  • keeping bees while unregistered X

  • The beekeeper has failed to notify the presence of small hive beetle X

  • And has allowed honey to be exposed to robber bees X

  • The beekeeper has also failed to discharge their General Biosecurity Duty because they ought to have known that leaving weak and dead hives in an apiary allows pests and diseases to increase which can in turn create a biosecurity impact (spread the problem) for other beekeepers in the vicinity. The beekeeper ought to have known this because there is plenty of material on this subject on the internet and the person was previously registered as a beekeeper

So how tough are the penalties under the new act?

Penalty notice offences are $1000 and $2000 (almost double what they were previously). If a matter goes to court, the maximum penalty for a category 1 offence (i.e. intentional, reckless, and causing a biosecurity impact) is $1.1M for an individual.

If a court finds a person guilty of a category 2 offence, such as keeping bees while unregistered, the maximum penalty is $220 000 and a further penalty of $275 000 for each day they fail to register.



  • AFB

Under the new law, you MUST report AFB or suspected AFB within 24 hours.

For AFB and other notifiable pests and diseases, beekeepers are advised to contact authorities by phone 1800 084 881 or email