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.
- AFB (American Foul 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 appropriately.

- Submit an ADR (Annual 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 AFB

- 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 beekeeper" on the forms page.
- Transfer apiary registration form can be found on the forms page as well
- An apiary is specific to the beekeeper, eg. Two beekeepers have hives in the same spot, both will be required to register the site individually.
- 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 hives

- Only keep honey bees in movable frame hives.
Here is the definition copied from the Biosecurity (National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan) Order 1998 (interpretations section)
"moveable-frame hive 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 information

American Foulbrood Pest Management

National 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 section)

Apiculture New Zealand (APINZ)

Compliance Guide to the Food (Tutin in Honey) Standard 2010

Managing 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 not build.
    Organic options are available but require more work, get the hang of beekeeping for at least a year before trying these out.

- 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 disease)
- 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 important.
- 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 above.

Join a club to share experiences and learn from one another in a social setting.

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 appropriately.
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 enjoyable  rewards.

Website © North Canterbury Beekeepers Club 2014
Images © of the respective photographers