Legal obligations of beekeepers

The Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 (LDC Act) and Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017 (Regulations) provide the legal basis for monitoring and control of diseases of bees in Victoria.

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 2 years.

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.

Branding hives

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
  • notify the owners 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.

While the Act does not require all hive components to be branded, most beekeepers prefer to brand everything including top bars of frames to help prevent theft.

Within 28 days of acquiring a hive, the new owner 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.

It is illegal for a registered beekeeper to have a hive that is not branded with their registered brand number.

Disposal of hives

The Bees Registrar must be notified in writing within 7 days when a hive is:

  • disposed of
  • sold
  • given away.

The form is available from the selling or giving away a beehive page.

Disease and exposure of bees to infected hives and equipment

Diseases of bees are easily spread when bees gain access to:

  • infected beekeeping equipment
  • hives
  • beeswax
  • hive components.

The bees can carry disease-causing organisms (such as American foulbrood bacteria) back to their own hive.

The Act states that you must not expose any items in a way that enables bees to have access to them — if they are infected with disease, or have been taken from a diseased hive. Items include:

  • pollen collected by bees
  • hives
  • beeswax
  • hive components
  • other beekeeping equipment.

This does not apply if the items have been disinfected by gamma-irradiation or hot wax dipping as directed by an apiary inspector.

Honey infected with disease must not be exposed or extracted in a way that allows bees access to it.

Bee access to honey

Even when bee disease is not present in honey, bees must not gain access to it.

It is an offence to expose:

  • honey on or in honeycomb
  • wax cappings
  • wax scraps
  • hive components
  • 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 and endemic disease to be reported immediately. The presence, or suspicion of presence, of American foulbrood must be reported without delay.

If you suspect an exotic pest or disease immediately phone the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.

If you suspect you have an endemic notifiable pest or disease you must call 136 186 or email:

Notifiable bee pests and diseases has further details on all notifiable pests and diseases of bees. Beekeepers can also seek advice from an apiary inspector, on 136 186 or email:

Direction to attend hives

The Act empowers an inspector to request in writing the beekeeper's attendance and assistance with an inspection of their 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 American foulbrood 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 may be washed or steam cleaned to remove:

  • honey
  • beeswax
  • propolis.

Equipment items include:

  • hive tools
  • honey extractors
  • wax reducers.

Provided these items are clean, there is no need to sterilise them.

The apiary inspector may issue a direction in writing stating 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 honey bee colonies (managed or feral).

If an inspector is satisfied on reasonable grounds that bees, hives or beekeeping equipment are abandoned or neglected, the inspector may seize and dispose of them in accordance with the Regulations.

If hives  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 from other States and Territories of:

  • bees
  • queen bees
  • queen cells
  • package bees
  • used hives
  • used hive components
  • used apiary equipment
  • apiary (bee) products.

Read the legal requirements for moving bees interstate.

Honey Bee Compensation and Industry Development Fund

Beekeepers may be eligible to receive compensation if their bees 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
  • a beekeeper who failed to notify the presence of field signs of AFB in their hives to a department inspector

Compensation is paid from the Honey Bee Compensation and Industry Development Fund. The fund is financed by beekeeper registration fees and is overseen by the Apicultural Industry Advisory Committee.

Apicultural Industry Advisory Committee

This committee has up to 9 members that are appointed by the Minister for Agriculture after considering recommendations from the Secretary and having regard to each appointee’s skills and experience in one or more of the following areas:

  • the apicultural and allied industries
  • biosecurity or market access
  • quality assurance and food safety
  • finance, legal practice, or business management
  • agricultural, animal or veterinary science
  • public policy
  • any other area the Minister considers relevant to the functions of the Committee

The Committee advises the Minister for Agriculture about:

  • bee diseases for which compensation should be payable
  • compensation payable to apiarists
  • amount of registration fees
  • any other matter referred to the Committee by the Minister.

Find out about the Honey Bee Compensation and Industry Development Fund.


There are consequences for failing to comply with all apiary legislation in Victoria which may include being issued with an infringement notice or court action for more serious or repeat offences.

It is every beekeeper’s responsibility to ensure they are aware of the legislated beekeeping requirements in Victoria.

The value of a penalty unit is adjusted each year. Find out the current penalty values.

Changes to Apiary Legislation in Victoria

Amendments have been made to the LDC Act, Regulations and subordinate legislation to modernise and increase the efficiency of the operational elements of the prevention, response to and control of exotic and endemic pests and diseases of honey bees.

The Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 (LDC Act)

The LDC Act was amended via the Biosecurity Legislation Amendment Incident Response Bill 2023, the main changes incude;

  • an increase to the penalty for failing to notify of disease under section 7(1) of the LDC Act from 240 penalty units to 1200 penalty units; and
  • an increase to the penalties for offences relating to not complying with a quarantine notice, treatment notice and disinfection notice from 60 penalty units to 120 penalty units; and
  • to provide further for the sharing of certain information related to emergencies with governments and agencies of the State, the Commonwealth and other States and Territories; and
  • to clarify the applicability of control area and restricted area provisions and streamline public notification procedures; and
  • to strengthen enforcement, search, entry and inspection powers, including providing that police officers are inspectors under the LDC Act; and
  • to broaden the offence of exposure of bees to infected articles.

The Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017 (Regulations)

Changes to the Regulations have occurred via the Livestock Disease Control Amendment Regulations 2024 and the main amendments include;

  • an increase in the penalty from 5 penalty units to 10 penalty units for offences including
    • feeding pollen to bees that has not been irradiated to a minimum 15 kilogray (to remove the risk of pests and disease) either before or just after its introduction to Victoria
    • failing to retain copy of a certificate issued
    • failing to keep records for seven years relating to notifying an inspector of a known or suspected disease under 7(1) of the LDC Act; and
  • the introduction of new penalties (20 penalty units each) for offences against existing beekeeping requirements some of which relate to
    • the improper construction of hives
    • failing to keep records in relation to beekeeping
    • not undertaking the visual examination and testing of hives for disease
    • sterilising or destroying hives or beekeeping fittings infected with American foulbrood before notifying an inspector
    • the sale and use of hives or fittings that have been infected with American foulbrood disease
    • the use of antibiotics to treat hives infected with American foulbrood disease
    • failing to take action to control disease in a hive
    • failing to take action to strengthen a weak hive
    • hives that no longer contain a colony of bees
    • bees, hives and beekeeping fittings no longer required for beekeeping
    • the abandonment of hives
    • swarm catch boxes
    • failing to provide water to bees; and
  • changing the requirement in relation to the introduction of livestock, livestock products, fodder or fittings into Victoria, by now requiring a health certificate to be provided to the Secretary 72 hours prior to the introduction of bees, bee products and used fittings. This is changed from previously being required 48 hours after introduction; and
  • revoking the regulations prohibiting the introduction of Braula fly (Braula coeca) host material; and
  • amending the requirements in relation to the prevention of spread of disease.

Apiary Code of Practice

In addition to the requirements of the LDC Act and Regulations, all Victorian beekeepers are required to comply with the Apiary Code of Practice 2011.

This Code has been prepared by the Victorian honey bee industry in consultation with various government agencies to form a basis of honey bee management which is compatible with other land uses.

This Code applies to apiaries within Victoria and forms a reference and the standard which is to be used by beekeepers, the general public and planning decision makers. Recognition of the habits of honey bees by this Code allows beekeepers and planning decision makers to undertake a consistent and speedy evaluation of the suitability of land as an apiary location. The Apiary Code of Practice should not be confused with the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice.

The Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice

This Code has been developed in consultation with beekeepers and governments to provide a framework for Australian beekeepers to use best-practice biosecurity measures.

In support of the Australian honey bee industry and to achieve national consistency, Agriculture Victoria adopted the requirements of the Code into Victoria’s apiary legislation on 19 June 2019.

The legislated requirements cover activities that all beekeepers should already be undertaking to minimise the impact of pests and diseases on their own hives and those of their fellow beekeepers.

The most important requirements for all beekeepers are to:

  • check hives for pests and diseases
  • improve record keeping of biosecurity related actions and observations
  • control pests and diseases
  • manage weak hives
  • protect hives from neglect or exposure.

Some requirements apply to all beekeepers while others apply only to beekeepers with 50 or more hives because of the increased biosecurity risks.

Commercial beekeepers with 50 or more hives also need to:

  • demonstrate adequate knowledge to identify and manage bee pests and diseases
  • undergo annual honey testing for American foulbrood disease
  • provide a declaration that they operate and manage their bee hives in compliance with the Code.

Further information

If you require further information or assistance, please contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email:

Page last updated: 11 Jul 2024