Managing bee hives

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, you must:

Non-commercial beekeepers do not pay a fee for registration.

Native beehives do not need to be registered.

Backyards and residential areas

Check with your local government to find local laws that apply to beekeeping in your area. Beehives in residential backyards must be managed to ensure bees don't become a nuisance to neighbours.

Before placing hives in your backyard, let your neighbours know you will be keeping bees. Explain how you plan to manage your hives to avoid bees becoming a nuisance.

Join a local beekeeping club to learn more about beekeeping and for help managing bees within urban areas.

Managing swarms

A bee swarm is a round or oval mass of bees seeking a place to start a new nest under the direction of a queen. Swarming bees are usually placid and unlikely to sting when left undisturbed.

Swarms naturally occur in spring to early summer. You can collect swarms to populate spare hive boxes and this will reduce the risk of nuisance bees establishing a colony in nearby buildings and trees.

You should take responsibility for a bee swarm that has come from one of your hives and whenever possible capture it as soon as it has formed into a cluster.

Contact your local beekeeping club for advice about handling swarming bees.

Working hives

Avoid working bees:

  • during cool times of the year
  • during rainy weather
  • when little nectar and pollen are available.

In these conditions, bees are under stress and can become savage and start to gather stored or spilled honey. This behaviour is known as robbing.

Cooperate with neighbours when you need to work the bees. Recommend that they stay inside while you work the bees or work out a mutually convenient time which won't disturb them.

Use a smoker when handling bees

Smoke can be used to subdue bees but check fire regulations before using a smoker in residential areas.

Noisy machines such as whipper snippers and mowers can upset bees and make them aggressive. It is a good idea to smoke the entrance to the hive before using these devices, or if you know that your neighbour plans to use them.

Provide barriers

Place hive entrances so bees fly across your property rather than directly into a neighbouring property. If this is not possible, provide a barrier to encourage the bees to fly up and over so that they don't bother neighbours. Barriers can be hedges or shrubs, or shade cloth fixed to a trellis.

Bees are attracted to lights, particularly fluorescent types. Use physical barriers between hive entrances and lights on neighbouring properties.

Maintain your hives

Proper hive maintenance can help you to minimise risks to yourself, your bee hives and your neighbours.

Minimise the risk of fires:

  • mow any grass around the hives
  • clear branches, twigs and dead grass
  • create a 2 metre-wide firebreak
  • use a bee smoker around the hives before you use a mower, slasher, weed eater or chainsaw
  • keep your bee smoker in a fireproof container during fire season.

Follow the requirements for clearing vegetation.

Dispose of beeswax safely

Avoid disposing of old combs, cappings or slum gum (wax extraction residues) at your local waste management facility unless it will be buried immediately.

Burning is ideal for destroying dried slum gum, old combs, and wax when you are not extracting the wax.

Provide your bees with water

Ensure water is available before placing bees in your backyard. Bees require water for their metabolic needs, and it is critical for temperature regulation of the hive.

Position hives in a sunny place with access to capillary moisture such as:

  • wet sand or gravel
  • the edge of a concrete pond
  • floating water plants.

Bees will be less likely to visit neighbouring backyards or swimming pools looking for moisture.