Legal requirements and moral
obligations of beekeepers in New Zealand
It is a legal requirement in New Zealand for all beekeepers
to register themselves and the details of their apiary locations.
- A new beekeeper registration
form can be found here
- You will get a beekeeper number and will legally be allowed to
keep bees on the locations you have submitted, there is a small
annual levy which is set by the management agency
- If you want a hive on your property but do not want to register
it then one option would be to rent a hive off a bee club or come
to an arrangement with a registered beekeeper to have one of their
hives on your property and for them to manage it.
Other than registering as a beekeeper there are some other
requirements you should know about.
Brood Disease) inspections need to be carried out by certified DECA
(Disease Elimination Conformancy Agreement) holder, between 1st
August and 30th November each year, then return a COI
(Certificate of Inspection) before 15th December of that year.
- You can get an exemption from submitting a COI if you attend and
pass an AFB recognition and competency course and test (dont
forget to inspect your hives though! Its not a ticket to laziness)
- We will put up information on the front page of this website for
up coming courses in Canterbury and email members.
- Destroy AFB instances within
7 days of confirmation
. As there are several ways to
identify AFB (check out the book "Eliminating American Foulbrood
Disease without the use of Drugs" by Mark Goodwin) and getting a
second opinion is a good idea if you are unsure. You can send
samples away for lab analysis if needed and as this is a free
service make the most of it, you have 7 days after a positive
result is returned from the lab to deal with the hives
- Submit an ADR
Disease Return) by 1st June, the paperwork gets posted in April by
the management agency.
This is to confirm any AFB found, exotic bee diseases, hives
destroyed, bought and sold and is separate from the COI return for
- Notify management agency of hive sales and acquisitions
- Notify management agency within 30 days of placing hives in a
new apiary, the registration
form is the same as the new beekeeper just select "existing
- Transfer apiary registration form can be found on the forms
- An apiary is specific to the beekeeper, eg. Two beekeepers have
hives in the same spot, both will be required to register the site
- An apiary is considered to be an area up to 200M in diameter,
any hives belonging to one beekeeper inside this area are part of
one apiary. Hives outside this area will need to be registered to
a new apiary site even if they are immediately next to existing
- Only keep honey bees in movable frame hives.
Here is the definition copied from the
(National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan) Order 1998
means a beehive from which any frame or
comb (as the case may be) that forms part of the beehive may be
easily removed for visual inspection without causing damage to
that frame or comb.
- This rules out bee "skips" cardboard boxes and anything
else where the bees build how they want (house walls, tree
stumps/logs etc) as well as rogue frames in beehives, but not
necessarily "top bar" hives.
- Be aware of Tutin, the Passion Vine Hopper and the toxic
honey they can create.
Areas below 42 degrees south are considered at low risk and honey
collected before the end of December is often low risk but you
need to get to know your area and get your honey tested if there
is the slightest doubt. This is a requirement for the sale or
trade of honey
Links and useful
Foulbrood Pest Management
American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan 1998
(quite an important one as its the law regarding
beekeeping and has a lot of definitions)
Asure Quality (apiculture
Guide to the Food (Tutin in Honey) Standard 2010
Tutin contamination in honey
Selling, bartering and giving away honey
(check with your local council as some "by laws" may amend
what is written here)
Now we have talked about
the legal requirements, here are some basic pointers for
better hive health.
- Treat for varroa mites, if you don't the hive will die within
about 6-9 months.
Normally an Autumn and Spring treatment is
enough, though in some cases a mid summer one is required.
Follow the instructions on the treatment
packets fully and alternate treatment families so resistance does
Organic options are available but require more
work, get the hang of beekeeping for at least a year before trying
- Check for AFB at least twice a year and destroy hives where
found. (or according to your DECA)
- Check feed levels in Autumn and feed sugar/syrup earlier rather
than later. Doing this during late autumn or early winter will
reduce hive die off and early spring robbing (robbing spreads
- A weak hive cannot process the sugar into food stocks fast
enough in winter to save themselves, bees don't freeze to death
they starve, so having adequate stores at the start of winter is
- There should be at least one full 3/4 box of honey per brood box
(you may still need to feed if its a long winter or poor spring).
Some bee hives will winder down well by filling the brood chamber
with honey, count this into your calculations too.
- Remember that if you have a box of honey above the queen
excluder, the queen cant follow the cluster of bees up and will
die during the winter, a 3/4 box is the deepest you should use to
avoid this happening or, place a sheet of material like Corflute
(the stuff real-estate signs are made from) that is 2cm smaller
than the wire of the queen excluder, on top of the queen excluder.
This will mean the bees and queen can cluster underneath it and
will keep warm, while still having access to the honey stores
Join a club to share experiences and learn from one another in a
Opening beehives that aren't yours without permission is a big
no-no, technically its trespassing.
Putting beehives en-mass near existing hive sites without
consultation is considered poor practice, leads to robbing and the
spread of disease as well an getting everyone annoyed.
Ideally hives should face north, be protected from southerly
winds, get the morning sun but not over heat in summer. If you are
in an urban area ensure the flight path is not towards your
neighbors washing line (not having toilets in the hive its the
first thing the bees do when leaving, bee mess is waxy and does
not really wash out.)
If you're bees get snowed in during winter, don't dig them out.
You have already made sure there are enough stores to get them
through and they will be fine inside, if they start trying to fly
and land on snow, they die almost straight away. This happens most
often when they are returning home tired and they fail to land on
the wooden doorstep.
Check for and remove swarm cells, while its the natural way in
which bees spread and multiply as a species, it causes problems by
perpetuating bee diseases. A well managed hive shouldn't be able
to swarm, also swarming drastically reduces bee numbers and
therefore weakens the colony for some time. (Remember an un
managed colony will only last about 6-9 months anyway, so not
catching swarms if they do happen is basically dooming those bees
to die and spreading disease.)
Healthy hives mean healthy bees, and that means honey for you and
pollination for your plants.
Although a hive is made up of about 60,000 bees during peak
season, they work as one community organism. This means look after
them like a pet animal, bees can not look after themselves with
Varroa, AFB, Chalk Brood, Sac Brood, Half-moon Syndrome and
robbing from bumblebees, wasps and other bees.
You wouldn't get a pet dog or cat then just leave it, (the people
that do, are charged with animal cruelty) if they get sick seek
help, if you move house, take them with you or at least find
someone to look after them and remember to feed them
Lets face it, people can live without cats and dogs (albeit a lot
sadder) but if we have no bees, within 3-4 years the human race
and indeed all species on earth that eat anything that requires
insect pollination would be in serious trouble from extinction,
don't mistreat the things that keep us alive.
SO, look after your hives, and get help when you cant!
Being a beekeeper has its responsibilities, and has many