No matter where you are, a bee hive is a very difficult thing to grow and maintain. It requires a lot of time and effort even to get going but, as you might expect, it is well worth it in the end. That being said, beekeeping is an activity that has recently been rediscovered by many people as a great pastime and a way of eating natural honey while helping their garden grow.
While you don’t have to live in the countryside to be able to take up beekeeping, if you live in an urban area you might want to brush up on some laws that are required for all beekeepers to know. Luckily, we knew about your hidden passion and just happened to make this guide that will serve you well as you start your colony.
Some Tips on How to Get Informed
Your local authorities are always a good place to start for all-things-bees. In the USA, municipal governments usually have laws in place for the purpose of helping regulate the activities within its jurisdiction. If you are just a little interested in the laws of beekeeping or if you are trying to figure out all the legal procedures to start your own colony, this is the place to start.
These laws are formally referred to as “municipal code” or more commonly known as “ordinances”. The first step in completing any of the two above objectives is checking out what your own city’s ordinances have to say.
Find the telephone number for the non-emergency services department in your city and give them a call. Since the City Clerk serves as a liaison between the public and the City Council, this might also be one place where you can find your information. If the Clerk does not know, you can surely get directions or links so you can continue your search.
Furthermore, most cities also use an online database as a library of digital documents that allow citizens to get informed without leaving the house. These usually contain the most accurate and up-to-date information. The city’s website will most likely also contain a link to the required website.
Once you have found this place, search for mentions of bees, beekeeping, apiaries, etc. A common occurrence is that if the city prohibits beekeeping you will find it pretty quickly by rummaging through those documents. You could find a few possibilities that might exist in certain degrees of flexibility or with certain restrictions, so take the time and study them.
Generally speaking, the ordinances might go down a few different paths. The city might either completely prohibit beekeeping, make no mention of beekeeping but list bees as prohibited, make no mention of either one of those but forbid it in practice or allow the raising of bees with various degrees of regulations.
The Bee Environment Right Now
At the moment, the Federal Government has no laws or regulations regarding bee diseases within the United States, but the Congress did pass a law popularly known as the “Honeybee Act” in 1922 restricting the import of living adult honey bees into the country. Other than that, almost every State in the U.S. has laws regulating the bees and beekeeping in general.
Under the law, any person who engages in unlawful importation of bees is guilty of an offense against the United States of America and shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $1,000, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
What you should know is that most of these are usually related to controlling bee diseases, not necessarily the way the keeper chooses to do his job. Therefore, they will attempt to regulate things like movement and entry of bees, issuances of permits and certificates, location control, quarantines, and inspections.
For example, Alaska has no intrastate or interstate laws on bee movement while Missouri has no intrastate laws. Furthermore, research has shown a lack of uniformity in overall State bee laws and regulations but mostly general agreements when it comes to specific points of law.
Most States will require things like registration of the apiary, interstate permits regarding movement, granting the inspector’s right of entry and so on. Sale or transfer of diseased material is something that, as we said, the authorities seek to keep a tight rein on, so the penalties come in the form of fines, jail, or even both.
A quick search will show you that while you need a permit for movement of bees and equipment in most states – with the exception of Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and a few others -, very few places require an actual inspection stamp on the hives that will allow you to begin the process of caring for your colony: Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Selling Honey After Producing It
If you want to become more than a part-timer and actually make a little profit off your bees, you’re in for another load of work. The first thing that you have to do is differentiate between selling in stores or places like Farmers Markets.
The reason for this is because selling in Farmers Markets does not require a permit as you can sell directly to the consumer. Therefore, the regulations regarding the making of the product will certainly be less demanding than the ones for actual in-store commerce.
If you do want to get your honey into stores, remember that regardless of your State, you need to get a food processing license. In order for you to get it, you will need a facility that meets the applicable regulations, which include but may not be limited to separation from living quarters, suitable access to the exterior, adequate facilities for washing, pertinent labeling, and so on.
If you are looking to get more specialized information, a good place to start would be emailing your State’s Department of Agriculture as they are the ones you will eventually have to deal with anyway.