Beekeeping and the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994
Note Number: AG1100
The Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017 provide the legal basis for monitoring and control of diseases of animals and bees in Victoria.
The following notes explain the sections of the Act that apply to beekeeping.
Registration of beekeepers
Anyone who keeps one or more hives of bees is required to register as a beekeeper with the department. Registration must be renewed every 24 months.
Registration enables us to conduct disease prevention and control programs for the benefit of beekeepers. This includes the mailing of helpful information from time to time.
Registered beekeepers may have access to compensation for loss of bees and hives due to infection with the honey bee brood disease, American Foulbrood (see below for further details).
There is no charge for registration when a person keeps at least one hive but not more than 5 hives and registers online using the Agriculture Victoria website.
In all other cases, a fee applies for registration as follows:
- where a person keeps 51 or more hives - 60 cents per hive.
- where a person keeps at least six hives but not more than 50 hives -$30.00.
- where a person keeps at least one hive but not more than 5 hives and does not register on-line but registers and pays using a paper application form - $30.00.
The department encourages beekeepers to register and pay online. This includes the biennial renewal of registration.
Certificate of registration
A certificate of registration is issued by the Bees Registrar and shows the beekeeper's registered number (brand) issued by the department.
Renewal of registration
The department will routinely forward application forms for renewal of registration to all registered beekeepers.
However, a beekeeper who has not received notification to renew registration by the due date should contact the Bees Registrar on 1800 356 761 to avoid being not registered.
Cancellation of registration
A beekeeper's registration will be cancelled if biennial renewal of registration is not completed. It is an offence for a person to keep bees if the person is not registered as a beekeeper.
Construction of hives
Good beekeeping practices include regular inspections of brood and honey combs in all hives for honey bee diseases and pests. Proper inspections are impossible when hives do not have beeswax combs held within moveable frames.
The Act requires beekeepers to only keep hives that have easily and individually removable frames. Top bar hives may be kept, provided the combs can be individually removed from the hive for inspection without cutting or tearing.
In cases where hives don't contain moveable frames, the Act empowers the department's apiary inspectors to order beekeepers to transfer the combs to moveable frames or destroy the bees.
The Act does not stipulate dimensions for hives and frames. However, almost all beekeepers in Victoria use the 8- or 10-frame Langstroth full-depth hive.
All hives must be marked or branded with the beekeeper's registered number (brand) that is printed on the Certificate of Registration. Branding of hives enables the department's apiary inspectors to identify the owners of hives and notify them of disease, vandalism, theft and other problems.
The letter and figures of the brand may be painted, stencilled, stamped, carved or fire branded (burnt) onto the hive. The letter and figures must be readable at all times and must not be less than 19 mm high. The brand is usually placed under the handhold at both ends of the box.
The Act does not require all hive components to be branded, but most beekeepers prefer to do so, including top bars of frames, as this helps to prevent theft.
Anyone who obtains a hive must:
- cancel the brand of the previous owner by placing a mark over the brand number on the hive
- place his or her own brand on the hive.
This must be done within 28 days of acquiring the hive. It is illegal for a registered beekeeper to have a hive that is not branded with his or her registered brand number.
However, it is legal for a beekeeper to have a hive branded with another registered beekeeper's brand provided he or she has the permission of that registered beekeeper.
Disposal of hives
The Bees Registrar must be notified in writing within 7 days when a hive is sold or given away. Notice of disposal forms are available from the Bee Registrar and the department's apiary inspectors.
The form is printed on the reverse side of the form 'Application for registration or renewal of registration as a beekeeper' and is also available from the Honey bees section of this website.
Disease and exposure of bees to infected hives and equipment
Diseases of bees are easily spread when bees gain access to hives, beeswax, hive components and other beekeeping equipment infected with disease.
The bees can carry disease-causing organisms (for example, American Foulbrood bacteria) back to their own hive.
The Act states that pollen collected by bees, hives, beeswax, 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.
This does not apply if the items have been disinfected by gamma-irradiation or hot wax dipping under procedures provided by an apiary inspector.
Honey infected with disease must not be exposed or extracted in a way that allows bees access to it.
Access of bees to honey
Even when bee disease is not present in honey, bees must not gain access to it.
This applies to honey on or in honeycomb, wax cappings, wax scraps, hive components, and other beekeeping equipment. It also applies when extracting honey and rendering beeswax.
Notification of bee pests or diseases
The Act requires outbreaks or suspicion of exotic disease to be reported immediately. The presence, or suspicion of presence, of American foulbrood must be reported within 12 hours.
Further details are presented in the Information Note (AG0763) 'Notifiable bee pests and diseases?' Alternatively, beekeepers can seek advice from an Apiary Inspector.
Direction to attend at hives
The Act empowers an inspector to request in writing the beekeeper's attendance and assistance with an inspection of his or her hives.
At least 7 days notice must be given by the inspector, unless reasonable grounds exist for believing the hives are infected with disease and the inspector notifies the beekeeper of this fact.
Clean-up of disease outbreaks
When outbreaks of AFB occur, it is necessary to clean and disinfect (sterilise) infected hive components by gamma irradiation or hot wax dipping, as agreed by the beekeeper and inspector.
The inspector may order destruction of items if disinfection is not feasible.
Other beekeeping equipment such as hive tools, honey extractors and wax reducers may be washed or steam cleaned to remove honey, beeswax and propolis. Provided these items are clean, there is no need to sterilise them.
The apiary inspector may issue a direction in writing which states the method and time by which the beekeeper must complete the clean-up procedure.
Abandoned and neglected hives
Abandoned or neglected hives may become diseased and a source of infection to other managed or feral honey bee colonies.
If an inspector is satisfied on reasonable grounds that bees, hives or beekeeping equipment are abandoned or neglected, the inspector may seize them and dispose of them in accordance with the Regulations.
In the case of hives that are branded, the inspector is required to give the beekeeper at least 7 days notice of the intention to dispose of the items. During this period, the beekeeper can claim the hives.
Hives placed on a public land apiary site without the necessary licence or permit for that site can also be considered abandoned.
Introduction of bees, hives, used hive equipment and bee products into Victoria
The Regulations specify restrictions on the introduction of bees, queen bees, queen cells, package bees, used hives, used hive components, used apiary equipment and apiary (bee) products from other States and Territories.
A health certificate must accompany bees, queens and any of the above items when introduced into Victoria.
The certificate is signed by the person introducing the item and must be countersigned by a government apiary officer in the State or Territory of origin. Copies of the certificate are available from interstate apiary officers and Victorian apiary inspectors.
A Honey Culture Test report no greater than 12 months old must now also accompany the health certificate.
In brief, the certificate must state that the item(s) to be introduced into Victoria come from apiaries free of disease.
Introduction of bees, queen bees, bee colonies, bee-collected pollen, and used hives, used hive components and fittings from Tasmania is not permitted due to the presence of Braula fly (Bee louse) in that State. Comb honey may be introduced, but special prior treatment and certification applies to introductions of this product.
Bee-collected pollen introduced from other States and Territories for feeding to Victorian honey bee colonies must be gamma-irradiated at 15 Kilo Gray before or immediately after introduction to Victoria. Irradiation kills disease organisms and leaves the pollen safe to feed to healthy colonies.
Honey Bee Compensation and Industry Development Fund
Beekeepers may be eligible to receive compensation if their bees and/or hives are destroyed or sterilised due to infection by the honey bee brood disease, American foulbrood (AFB).
Compensation for loss due to AFB is not payable to an unregistered beekeeper or to a beekeeper who failed to notify the presence of field signs of AFB in his or her hives to a department inspector.
Compensation is paid from the Honey Bee Compensation and Industry Development Fund. The money in the fund is derived from registration fees paid by beekeepers.
Apicultural Industry Advisory Committee
This committee has 6 members appointed by the Minister for Agriculture for three year terms.
Three members are nominated by the Victorian Apiarists' Association Inc., one member is nominated by the Victorian Farmers Federation and two members are nominated by the Secretary of the department.
The Committee advises the Minister for Agriculture about:
- bee diseases for which compensation should be payable
- amount of compensation payable to apiarists
- amount of registration fees
- any other matter referred to the Committee by the Minister.
People guilty of an offence under the Act or Regulations may be liable to a penalty. Infringement notices may be issued under certain circumstances.
The Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017 can be downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website. At the site, click on Victorian Law Today to search for the Act and Regulations.
If you require further information or assistance, please contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apiary Code of Practice
In addition to the requirements of the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and Regulations, all Victorian beekeepers are required to comply with the Apiary Code of Practice May 2011.
This Agricultural Note was developed by Russell Goodman and Peter Kaczynski in March 2003.
It was reviewed by Cynthia Kefaloukos, Chief Plant Health Officer Unit in November 2019.