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Changes for beekeepers in Queensland

The Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act) commenced on 1 July 2016. As a beekeeper you need to take an active role in managing biosecurity risks under your control. You are not expected to know about all biosecurity risks, but you are expected to know about those associated with your day-to-day work and your hobbies. The general biosecurity obligation means you need to ensure your activities do not spread a pest, disease or contaminant. You need to:

  • take all reasonable and practical steps to prevent or minimise each biosecurity risk    
  • minimise the likelihood of the risk causing a biosecurity event and limit the consequences of such an event
  • prevent or minimise the adverse effects the risk could have and refrain from doing anything that might exacerbate the adverse effects.    

You can choose to follow the national biosecurity code of practice for beekeepers as one way to demonstrate you are meeting your general biosecurity obligation. This is available from the Australian Honeybee Industry Council.

Beekeeper registration

Registration is an important tool for tracing investigations in the event of a pest or disease incursion. From 1 July 2016, if you keep at least one bee hive you must register as a biosecurity entity. This replaces the  previous  requirement to be a registered beekeeper. The Act allows for single or multiple people or a business to be the registered biosecurity entity, depending on who owns the hives.

A biosecurity entity is allocated a Hive Identification Number (HIN) and only one HIN will relate to each registered biosecurity entity. In most cases your current brand will become your HIN.

Beekeepers already registered

For existing beekeepers registered under the Apiaries Act 1982 between March 2016 and June 2016, your registration will continue until March 2017, at which time you will be required to register under the new Biosecurity Act 2014. Your registration will then remain in place for three years from date of registration.

A registration fee will continue to apply for beekeepers who are commercial producers. You are considered a commercial producer if you claim primary producer status on your annual tax return. Payment will be required at the time of registration. If you keep bees only for non-commercial purposes you  are exempt from paying the registration fee from 1 July 2016.

New beekeeper registrations from 1 July 2016

New registrations after 1 July 2016 will be effective for three years from the date of registration. From 1 July 2016, you will be able to get an application form online to register as a biosecurity entity and receive a HIN, or by contacting your local Department of Agriculture and Fisheries office.

Hive marking

There is a requirement for a hive to be marked with a brand. You need to continue to maintain the legibility of hive markings and ensure the HIN is marked on the hive as follows:

  • The HIN must be marked or branded:    
    • on the front of the hive
    • in block letters and figures at least 25mm high.        
  • The first HIN on a hive must be placed in the centre of the front of the hive.    
  • If a hive is already marked or branded, any subsequent marks or brands of the HIN on the hive must be placed in the corners of the front of the same hive in a clockwise sequence, starting from the top left hand corner of the hive.    

Distance between apiary sites    

From 1 July 2016 new minimum distances are required between hives in some cases. This will support commercial beekeepers and allow them to work their hives without robbing. Extra distance between hives is now specified for queen bee breeding apiaries to provide additional assurance in maintaining the purity of queen bee lines.    

It is prohibited to establish apiary sites within a radius of:    

  • less than 0.8km from an established apiary of more than 40 hives
  • within a radius of less than 2km from an established apiary used for queen bee breeding, regardless of the number of hives.        
Number of hives                 Proposed distance apart (radius)                
Less than 40 hives Not specified
More than 40 hives 0.8km
Queen bee breeding apiaries 2km

Regulated bees and pests of bees

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, the following pests and carriers are prescribed as prohibited matter:

  • Asian honey bee (Apis dorsata, A. florea, A. cerana other than cerana javana)    
  • bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
  • Africanised bee (Apis mellifera scutellata)    
  • tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi)    
  • tropilaelaps mite (Tropilaelaps clareae and mercedesae)    
  • varroa mite (Varroa destructor)    
  • varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni).    

This means it is a serious offence to keep, possess, distribute or transport these pests and carriers. This extends to the movement of hives, bee products and beekeeping appliances that are potentially carrying prohibited matter. You must also report the presence of these pests and carriers to Biosecurity  Queensland  on 13 25  23 or the Exotic Plant Pest hotline on 1800 084 881.

If you notice changes such as scattered brood, crippled honey bees and a reduction in honey bee population, you should notify Biosecurity Queensland or the Emergency Plant Pest Hotline (1800 084 881) immediately. The hives should not be moved until they have been inspected.

Asian honey bee

Under the Act, Asian honey bee (Apis cerana javana) is prescribed as category 1 restricted matter.

It must be reported if you become aware of its presence. You must not take any action reasonably likely to exacerbate, and must take any action reasonably likely to minimise, the biosecurity risk posed by Asian honey bee.

Asian honey bee is known to occur in an area around Cairns and while it has been determined that it is not possible to eradicate this pest there is continuing benefit in minimising the spread and managing new incursions. New incursions of Asian honey bees may result in the introduction of varroa mites, which could be a significant threat to European honey bee colonies in Australia.

Biosecurity Queensland will continue to undertake actions (including surveillance and responding to public reports) outside of the known infested area to limit the spread of the pest beyond what would occur naturally.

If you are outside of the known infested area (around Cairns) you must report all suspect Asian honey bee sightings (including any swarms or nests you have destroyed) and provide a sample of the bees where possible.

This is particularly important if the swarm or nest is suspected to be a new incursion, or if it is located near an airport or seaport in Queensland. Record the exact location of the sighting and contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or the Exotic Plant Pest hotline on 1800 084 881.

American foulbrood disease

Under the Act, American foulbrood (Paenbacillus larvae) is prescribed as category 1 restricted matter. You must report it as soon as you become aware of its presence and you must not take any action that may worsen the biosecurity risk posed by American foulbrood. You must also take action to minimise the risk, such as controlling the disease and preventing it from spreading within your apiary and to other apiaries.

Find out more about how to manage American foulbrood.

Small hive beetle

Small hive beetle is widespread throughout Queensland. Small hive beetle is not regulated under the Act and there is no requirement to notify Biosecurity Queensland if your hives are infested.

Beekeepers are however encouraged to manage small hive beetle as part of their general biosecurity obligation, as far as is reasonable and practical.

Braula fly (bee louse)

Braula fly are currently only found in Tasmania and are not present on mainland Australia. It is a pest of concern to the industry. Braula fly will be prohibited matter under the Act, and as such it is an offence to deal with it. The movement of associated risk materials is also considered to be high risk. As such, if you bring carriers (queen bees and escort bees, comb honey, wax) from Tasmania or another infested  place without meeting the requirements of the Queensland Biosecurity Manual you will be in breach of your general biosecurity obligation. This is similar to the previous requirement to have a health certificate for carriers brought into Queensland from Tasmania.