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.
Registering as a beekeeper
All beekeepers in New Zealand need to register their beehives. This is a legal obligation under the Biosecurity Act 1993.
Once you have registered, you can keep your beekeeping records up to date on the Hivehub site.
If you want to supply honey for sale overseas, you also need to be listed as a beekeeper with MPI.
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:
- 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.
To learn how to spot pests and diseases, download a copy of the Bee Biosecurity Visual ID Guide.
American foulbrood (AFB, or Paenibacillus larvae) is a bacterial disease that can cause a lot of damage. It is present in New Zealand.
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.
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.