The popularity of beekeeping has grown enormously in recently, and there is no doubt that beekeepers have helped up the population of honey bees. This is vital not only for honey production, but for pollination of flora and commercially grown crops. Whether you intend to keep bees for honey for your own use or to sell, you need to be aware of the legal framework that you need to operate in. The following is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but should give you an idea of what you need to be aware of. If you are in any doubt at all then you should obtain professional legal advice.
Of course, the laws relating to beekeeping vary from one country to another.
Beekeeping and the Law in the UK
The first thing to note is that beekeeping is legal throughout the UK and there are no laws restricting the keeping of bees as such. There is also no requirement for beekeepers to be registered. However, there are laws in relation to nuisance that your bees may cause. If your bees should swarm and then head off into your neighbours garden then the bees remain your property and responsibility. This does not mean you can enter your neighbour’s property without their permission otherwise you could find yourself getting into trouble for trespass. If you are granted permission to enter the property you should take care not to damage any tree branches or dismantle any parts of a building in the course of recovering your bees, unless of course you have permission to do so.
You should take reasonable steps to ensure that your bees do not cause a nuisance to other people. For example, your beehives should not be sited next to the border of a neighbour’s property.
In addition, you should warn people who should enter your property that there are bees and they may get stung. Ironically this generally means people trespassing on your property. The best way of doing this is by putting up some highly visible signs warning anyone who should enter.
If you are intending to sell your honey you have a responsibility to ensure that your honey is processed in hygienic conditions and that all jars are sterilised before using. Legislation sets out how you label your honey. Specifically, the labels should:
- Display the weight of the honey displayed in metric then imperial.
- All illustrations and descriptions should be accurate and not misleading in any way.
- There should be a lot number on each jar.
- Each label should display the name and address of the honey producer and include “Produce of the UK”.
- There should be a best before date (2 years is recommended).
Beekeeping and the Law in the USA
The legal framework for beekeeping in the US is more complex as it varies enormously not just from one state to another, but from one city to another. So you will need to check what local provisions are in place. Across the United States there are in excess of 90 cities where it is actually prohibited by law to keep bees unless you are a commercial producer. There are also some cities where it is technically legal to keep bees, but the requirements are such that it is impractical for most people to do so. There has been some relaxation of these laws in recent years – New York City famously lifted its beekeeping ban in 2010 – and other cities have been actively reviewing their laws, so this may well change.
In several states (such as California) it is legal to keep bees but there is a requirement to register as a beekeeper. There is a charge for this but this is a fairly nominal sum.
Otherwise, there are similar local laws in place in respect of ensuring that your bees do not cause a nuisance to others such as those in the UK. However, the specifics of these vary from one locality to another.
Beekeeping and the Law in Australia
The law relating to beekeeping varies across the various states in Australia. However, all states require that beekeepers should be registered for which there is a nominal fee. The precise requirements for registration vary slightly from one state to another – for example, in Victoria you are required to paint or brand your registration number on your hives, in Queensland you are required to provide a sample of honey to check that it is disease free.
Each state provides its own code of practice for beekeeping which includes not only guidance for ensuring that your bees are not a nuisance to others but also for good bee care (for example, ensuring that your bees have access to water).
You will need to check the precise requirements in the state in which you live.
As you can see, the law varies enormously from one area to another; from being completely illegal in some parts of the US to having no particular regulation (aside from very general nuisance type laws) in the UK. It also seems that beekeeping is one activity that is largely untouched (aside from packaging and selling of honey) by European Union rules, so there is some variation across Europe as to requirements.
So, basically, if you are considering keeping bees you should be aware that there is a legal framework which is there primarily to protect your neighbours. Clearly in some areas this is taken to the extreme. But in general terms, you should check thoroughly the precise rules in the area in which you live.
(Technorati claim code 2P9PNHK849KV)