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Legalities (Victoria, Australia)

Legalities (Victoria, Australia)

Legalities Involved in Setting Up a Honeybee Colony in Castlemaine/Victoria

In Victoria – bees must be kept in accordance with the:

The Apiary Code of Practice helps to outline how to manage bees in Victoria.

– A “minimum standard of beekeeping activities to ensure that the bees do not become a nuisance to other people”. “This code was prepared to facilitate the consistent consideration of apiary activities throughout the state.”

In my opinion these are the most important/relevant points from the Apiary Code of Practice:
– manage colonies to prevent and minimise swarming
– capture swarms that have left a colony the beekeeper owns
– provide water on the property where the bees are located if they don’t have access to water
– maintain colonies in urban areas with young docile queens
– store used hive components so that bees cannot access them
– prevent or minimise activities of robber bees
– observe hive density limits for properties in urban areas
– ensure bee flight paths do not interfere with neighbouring land
– place hives more than 3 meters from a property boundary fence unless the fence is bee-proof and more than two meters high, unless the adjoining property is unimproved land

Hive density:

500 square meters (0.12 acres ) or less = 1 hive
501 – 1000 square meters (0.124 – 0.247 acres) = 2 hives
1001 – 2000 square meters (0.247 – 0.494 acres) = 5 hives (a quarter acre block is 1010 square meters)
2001 – 4000 square meters (0.494 – 0.988 acres) = 10 hives (a half acre block is 2023 square meters)
4001 square meters – 1 hectare (0.988 – 2.47 acres) = 60 hives (an acre block is 4046 square meters)
1 hectare – 2 hectares (2.47 acres – 4.94 acres) = 100 hives
Larger than 2 hectares (4.94 acres) = unlimited number of hives

In 2015, the honey bee industry, including all of the state-based beekeeping associations worked in consultation with beekeepers and governments to develop the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice (the Code). The Code was given a vote of support in each state and was nationally endorsed in July 2016.

The Code is a set of best practice biosecurity guidelines written by beekeepers for beekeepers with the aim of improving the standard of beekeeping across Australia. Victorian regulations have been updated to align with the Code

Areas covered by the Code include:

The Beeaware website was created to support the Code and includes an excellent FREE online training course. Visit for the code, fact sheets on managing each pest and disease identified and excellent training videos. This includes Varroa management.

Anyone who keeps one or more hives of bees is required to register as a beekeeper with Agriculture Victoria. Registration must be renewed every 2 years.

Presently, registration for up to 5 hives is free if done online. If you choose to fill out a form and send it in, it costs $30.

For beekeepers with more than 5 hives:

Once you register, you will then receive reminder notices and are liable to prosecution if you don’t re-register.

Clicking here will take you to the online registration.

Registration Requirements:

Keeping a record of your biosecurity activities is mandatory. This can be done on paper (which we do and which is easy). You can use this template: or the free Agriculture Victoria database called BeeMAX.

You need to record:

Branding Hives – When you register as a beekeeper, you will be given a brand or registration number. It is compulsory in Victoria to paint or firebrand (it is more difficult to disguise stolen firebranded hives) your brand number on the hive. The letter and figures must be readable at all times and must be not less than 19mm high.

Disposal of Hives – If you get rid of a hive – sell it or kill it – you have to let the Agriculture Victoria know within 7 days. Agriculture Victoria send out a reminder notice for registration each year. On the back is a Notice of Disposal of Hives.

Moveable Frame Hives – Bees must be kept in hives that have “individually and removable frames”. So the frames should be able be removed from the hive without cutting and tearing. This is so that brood can be inspected for presence of brood disease. Dimensions for hives and frames are not stipulated. Swarms may be temporarily put in a box without frames.

Notification of Diseases and Pests – Beekeepers must report outbreaks or suspicion of exotic disease to be reported immediately. AFB must be reported within 12 hours. There is an information note on the Agriculture Victoria website that details which diseases must be notified called “Which Diseases of Bees Must Be Notified”.

Tests to identify different pests are all described in the BeeAware website. This includes the key varroa mite tests:

Alcohol wash to detect varroa mites on bees

How to sugar shake bees

Exposure of Bees to Infected Hives and Equipment – Hives, hive components and other beekeeping equipment infected with disease or taken from a diseased hive must not be exposed in any way that enables bees to have access to those items unless they have been gamma-irradiated or hot wax dipped.

Access of Bees to Honey – It is prohibited to allow bees access to honey that is outside the hive as it’s thought this encourages robbing and can spread disease.

Interstate Movement of Bees and Used Equipment – regulations surrounding moving bees, bee equipment and bee products (including honey) across state lines. Contact Agriculture Victoria in the state you want to move things to for current information.

Chemical Use and Records – If a beekeeper uses chemical treatments they may have to keep written records of the use.

Packing and Selling Honey – Contact local government public health unit for legal requirements for extracting and packaging premises, labels for honey containers, record keeping and compliance with food safety laws.

Smokers and Fire – Do not use on a total fire ban day unless you have a permit.

Other Links

Managing AFB – Dept of Primary Industries NSW (some info not relevant to Victoria but its the best resource I’ve found so far on AFB)

Agriculture Victoria Beekeeping for Beginners