Setting up as a beekeeper

It’s important to know the rules and regulations when you set up as a beekeeper. Learn what’s required, and how to manage bee biosecurity and food safety.

Getting started as a beekeeper

The best way to get started in beekeeping is to visit a beekeeping club or learn from an experienced beekeeper.

New beekeepers should learn as much as possible before getting their first bees. It is particularly important to learn about:

  • looking after bees
  • keeping bees free from pest and diseases
  • food safety
  • legal requirements.

Food safety for beekeepers

New to beekeeping – ApiNZ

Registering as a beekeeper

All beekeepers in New Zealand need to register their beehives. This is a legal obligation under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Register as a beekeeper – The Management Agency

Once you have registered, you can keep your beekeeping records up to date on the ApiWeb site.

Online apiary database – ApiWeb

If you want to supply honey for sale overseas, you also need to be listed as a beekeeper with MPI.

Supplying bee products for export

Bee biosecurity

Many of the bee pests and diseases that cause problems in other countries aren't found here. It is important for us to keep out new (exotic) pests and diseases, and control the ones that are already here.

To keep bee pests and disease out of New Zealand, it is illegal to import:

  • bees
  • raw bee-products (honey, bees wax, propolis, or pollen)
  • used beekeeping equipment.

Bees must be kept in moveable frame hives that make it easy to inspect them. This helps beekeepers monitor and control pests and diseases. A "movable frame hive" is defined in the Biosecurity (National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan) Order 1998.

Biosecurity (National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan) Order – NZ Legislation

To learn how to spot pests and diseases, download a copy of the Bee Biosecurity Visual ID Guide.

Bee Biosecurity Visual ID Guide [PDF, 1.6 MB]

American foulbrood

American foulbrood (AFB, or Paenibacillus larvae) is a bacterial disease that can cause a lot of damage. It is present in New Zealand.

The American Foulbrood Pest Management Agency

Beekeepers must be able to identify hives that are infected with AFB. You are legally required to notify The Management Agency if you find American foulbrood in your hives.

I think I have AFB – The Management Agency

Pest and disease treatments

There are a number of pest and diseases that can affect bees. To control these, beekeepers may need to use chemical or biological compounds known as "agricultural compounds". These include any treatments for Nosema spp., other bee diseases, and parasites such as Varroa destructor.

There is a range of registered products you can use for the control of pests and diseases in honey bees. You can also use compounds under the "own use" exemption if you:

  • prepared it yourself, and
  • use it only on hives that you own, or on hives that are on land you own or occupy.

For example, you might prepare a generic substance like oxalic acid and apply it to your hives.

All beekeepers should read our guidance document on the own use exemption.

Advertising and own use guidance for compounds for management of disease in beehives [PDF, 558 KB]

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