Code Of Practice
Urban beekeeping in Queensland

Hamish Lamb,  Department of Primary Industries, Queensland, Information Series: Q198044

  • Introduction
  • Requirement to register
  • Swarms and bee enquiries
  • Definitions
  • Urban considerations
  •  Hive densities
  •  Hive placement
  •  Swarming
  •  Capturing and hiving swarm
  •  Feral swarms and colonies
  •  Provision of water
  •  Docile bees
  •  Robber bees
  •  Disease control
  •  Flight paths
  •  Transportation of hives
  •  Use of smoke in hive management
  •  Barriers
  •  Robbing and working hives
  •  Lights
  •  Honey sheds
  • Acknowledgements
  • Suggested reading
Q198044, ISSN 0727-6273

Copyright,  State of Queensland, Department of Primary Industries 1998

Copyright protects this publication. Except for purposes permitted by the Copyright Act, reproduction by whatever means; is prohibited without the prior written permission of the Department of Primary Industries.

Information contained in this publication is provided as general advice only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.

The Department of Primary Industries, Queensland, has taken. an reasonable steps to ensure the information contained in this publication is accurate at the time of publication. Readers should ensure that they make appropriate enquiries to determine whether new information is available on the particular subject matter.

Inquiries should be addressed to: Manager Publication Production, Department of Primary Industries Queensland, GPO Box 46, Brisbane Q 4001.

Formulated by members of:
Queensland Beekeepers' Association
Local amateur beekeeping associations
Department of Primary Industries, Queensland


Honeybees not only produce honey, but play a vital role in the balance of nature, especially the pollination of agricultural crops, horticultural crops and the house garden. Pollination is important for the viability of many pastoral enterprises, market gardens, orchards and seed industries. Our favourite foods such as apples, avocadoes, stone fruits, melons and citrus fruits are either highly dependent on, or greatly benefit from, honeybee pollination. It has been estimated that honeybees add $1.6 billion to the Australian agricultural and horticultural industries.

Beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular in towns and cities throughout Queensland with over 2 000 households registering hives. This provides honey for home consumption, enjoyment in watching these highly social creatures and the opportunity to join an amateur beekeeping group. However, honeybees posess a sting and therefore require proper and responsible management so they do not create a problem for neighbours.

The purpose of this document is to form a reference and standard for the management of beekeeping in Queensland towns and cities. Its intended use includes:

  • local government and regulatory bodies to establish uniform legislation
  • community confidence in the safety of beekeeping activities, and a standard against which any complaints can be resolved
  • minimum standard to which beekeepers should comply.
It is intended that this code forms the prescription for harmonious cooperation between beekeepers and other land occupiers in Queensland. The aim of the code is to ensure that the keeping of honey bees does not have a negative impact on people, property, domestic animals or native flora. and fauna.

This Code of Practice provides advice for the management of bee hives which incorporates a standard by which beekeepers operating in Queensland are requested to comply. As such it is to be used by apiarists, decision making authorities and the general public.

Recognition of the Code of Practice and of honey bee habits by apiarists and decision making authorities will enable consistent and speedy evaluation of the suitability of potential sites for apiary location. The Code of Practice provides a number of requirements which if complied with enables beekeeping to be conducted on and in Queensland without a planning permit.

Should a planning permit be required by a local authority, the Code of Practice provides a consistent approach the consideration. of the application and the resolution of contentious issues. Expert planning and apicultural, personnel from the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland may be called upon to offer advice. Not all contingencies, however, can be foreshadowed but equitable resolution of contentious issues are considered possible using the guidelines available in this code.

If a complaint is lodged with a local. authority, and clearly the beekeeper is not abiding by the code or by planning requirements in relation to a bee site (excluding crown land), council authorities can be responsible for taking appropriate action.

Requirement to register

It is a requirement under the Apiaries Act 1982 to become a registered beekeeper With the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland if you own one or more hives.

Registration is valid for a 12 month period expiring at the end of March.

Renewal forms are sent to registered beekeepers for return to the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland, Warwick, along with the annual fee of $10.

Beekeepers who change their postal address are required to notify the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.

Swarms and bee enquiries

 Swarm enquiries from the public can be handled  through the DPI CALL CENTRE, phone number
13 25 23. This service has a recent update of beekeepers who are prepared to collect swarms.

Some individuals nominate a charge for this service.

Other general beekeeping enquiries can be handled through the DPI CALL CENTRE.

The Call Centre is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays)


Apiarist and beekeeper -
a person keeping bees.

a place where honeybee hives are kept.

Apiculture and Beekeeping-
the management of beehives.

removable framed housing for a honeybee colony.

Bee site-
a place where beehives could be sited.

Bee sting-
injury sustained and inflicted by a honeybee worker.

identification issued by DPI for marking frames and hives.

Feed tray-
stock feed in a tray, may include cracked grain or molasses.

Flight path-
the distinct route taken by many bees leaving from or returning to their hive.

Foraging bees-
bees seeking out supply of water or feed. They may frequent stock feed, water, or protein sources (abnormal circumstances) if there is a low natural supply. Bees naturally forage flowers for nectar and pollen supplies.

a honeybee hive, being a nucleus colony or standard size colony

Honeybee comb-
removable frames containing wax cells which house honey, pollen, and/ or brood (eggs, larvae, pupae).

Honey flow-
the gathering of nectar from flora by honeybees.

Honey extraction-
the removal of honey from combs.

Package bees-
a number of adult bees with or without a queen contained in a ventilated shipping cage.

the transfer of pollen by honey bees from anthers to stigmas of flowers for the purpose of plant fertilisation.

Queen raising yard-
a site or property where queen bees are raised. This may be a property where the beekeeper resides or a location in close proximity to this but also includes isolated areas free from the influence of other beehives.

Robber bees-
bees from any other hive attempting to access stored or spilt honey.

Strong hive-
a populous honeybee colony,

box or boxes containing frames placed above the bottom or brood box.

cluster or flying mass of honeybees
including workers, queen and drones.

Water supply-
taps, hoses, pools.


Urban considerations

Hive densities

One of the primary limitations to the keeping of bees is the real or perceived interaction between the bee and people who live in or use the surrounding area.

To overcome this problem a hive density limit is proposed which will minimise the potential conflict between people and the honeybee.

Number of hives in relation to allotment size.

Allotment area                    Number of Hives

up to 400 m2                              0
400-1000 m                            2
1000-2000 m2                           5
2000-4000 m                        10
>4000 m2                  To seek advice (if urban zoned)

Hive placement

Correct placement of hives is a most important consideration for responsible beekeeping in urban situations. The hives must be in a quiet area of the allotment, and not directly against the neighbouring property, unless a solid fence or impenetrable vegetative barrier, not less than two metres high, forms the property boundary. Keep hives as far away as possible from roads, footpaths and parks.

Face the entrance of the hives in such a direction that bees fly across, your property. If this cannot be readily be done, consider placing barriers. These can be in the form of hedges or shrubs, or instant barriers consisting of shade cloth fixed to a trellis, some 2 to 4m high. Bees will fly up and over these structures and should not worry neighbours.


Swarming is a natural instinct of honeybees and occurs chiefly in spring to early summer. Swarms should be collected to prevent them becoming a nuisance if they fly to nearby properties and establish in houses, trees or similar sites.

Honeybee colonies must be managed to prevent or minimise swarming. Suitable management practices are described in good beekeeping textbooks; such as the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland publication The Bee Book - beekeeping in the warmer areas of Australia. (P. Warhurst and R. Goebel. 1995).

The division of a colony of honeybees into two or more units by the beekeeper will reduce its population and its likelihood to swarm. Reuniting of these units can take place at a later time in order to reduce the number of hives. This procedure is known as artificial swarming and its practice is effective in removing the swarming impulse.

Other factors such as the provision of additional supers for brood rearing and honey storage, and the replacement of old or failing queens may also reduce the swarming impulse.

It should not be immediately assumed that swarms found in the vicinity of managed hives have in fact issued from these hives. This is due to the fact that swarms issuing from other hives, and in particular feral colonies, may fly into nearby managed apiaries.

Capturing and hiving Swarms

Beekeepers must take responsibility for a swarm that has issued from one of their colonies and capture it as soon as possible after it has formed into a cluster.

Feral swarms and colonies

Swarms issue from feral honeybee colonies, and may fly into the vicinity of managed apiaries or native bushland including conservation reserves.

Beekeepers are encouraged to make themselves available for the collection of accessible feral swarms on both private and public land. Each year, a list of swarm collectors for the Brisbane area is compiled by the Apicultural. Section of the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland, and is made available to councils and other utilities upon request.

The DPI CALL CENTRE has instant access to the swarm list, phone number 13 25 23.

Provision of water

Beekeepers are to provide water for their bees before locating them in their yard. Bees prefer a sunny place with capillary moisture, for example wet sand or gravel, the edge of a concrete pond, or floating water weeds. If you establish these places, there is much less chance of bees visiting swimming pools. Remember that in very hot weather, bees use a large amount of water to maintain temperature and humidity within the hive.

Docile bees

Honeybee colonies managed in urban areas must be maintained with young queens of a docile strain. Docile queens are specially bred and sold by queen breeders. Docility is one of the main selection criteria.

Robber bees

When nectar is scarce, honeybees may rob honey from other hives. When such conditions, prevail hives should only be opened for a very short time. If robbing becomes extreme, they should not be opened at all until field conditions improve.

Exposure of honey (including sticky honeycombs) to honeybees in the open may encourage robbing. All spilt honey should be cleaned up immediately. To prevent robbing, buildings and caravans used for honey extraction purposes must be made bee proof, as far as practicable.

Disease control

There are a number of honeybee diseases, especially brood diseases, of which American Foulbrood (AFB) is the most serious. Beekeepers should be cautious about mixing hive equipment, or purchasing hives unless from known AFB free apiaries. The Department of Primary Industries, Queensland requests a honey sample from selected apiaries at registration time to check for AFB freedom. It is mandatory to comply with this request, as urban beekeepers can become a source of infection for commercial apiaries.

Flight paths

Beekeepers must locate and manage their hives to minimise the risk of interference with the general public, particularly in broadhectare field crop areas and in those areas used intensively for public access or recreation.

Transportation of hives

Beekeepers must take appropriate care when transporting hives of honeybees. All loads of hives and supers of honey must be secured in accordance with the Road Safety (Traffic) Regulations.

Beehives are not classified as dangerous goods but when transporting stock/bees the owner has a duty of care to community members thus putting the responsibility back on the beekeeper to prevent any loss en route.

The stopping off at fuel stations or travel through built up areas with bright street lighting and traffic lights could cause loss of stock and not be in the publics best interest. Refueling and breaks should be carefully planned prior to departure.

Methods of transporting hives

Hive's ideally should be shifted by one of the following methods.

Open entrance transport;
Points about open entrance transfer of hives, include:

  • this is the most common. way of shifting beehives
  • beehives are loaded at dusk or at night to let bees settle
  • transport is undertaken at night and destination is reached at night
  • bees are unloaded after arrival at night or preferably at first  light the next day.

Closed entrance transport
Points about closed entrance transfer of hives include:

  • this method allows an owner to shift bees a short distance and unload without being stung
  • hives, must be fitted with adequate ventilation so bees don't suffocate
  • bees can be shifted in a conventional station wagon vehicle
  • bees can be closed at night after the bees, clustered at the  entrance, are smoked and driven inside the hive
  • shifting should be done at night when all bees are at home and  when temperatures are coolest.

Netted bee transport
Points about netted bee transfer of hives include:

  • the introduction of nets allows beekeepers to move bees during daylight and dark hours
  • bees need to be loaded at night or dusk
  • nets will. have to be secure enough to contain bees in transit and not flap in the breeze
  • bees can be shifted during daylight hours provided tempera-tures are not too high
  • trucks should not be parked too close to bright lights, e.g., at service stations. This will lessen the likelihood of bees becom-ing excited, or escaping, and causing a public nuisance.

Use of Smoke in hive management

Smoke is used by beekeepers as a management aid to subdue honeybees. The use of the bee smoker is controlled by fire regulations.

Smoke the entrance of hives before mowing or using weedeaters nearby. These machines upset bees, and operators or people passing by may be stung. It is normally a good idea to wear a hat, veil and long trousers of a light colour when working bees.


Beekeepers are to face the entrance of the hive in such a direction that bees fly across their property. If this cannot readily be done, a barrier must be erected. These can be in the form of hedges or shrubs, or instant barriers consisting of shade cloth fixed to a trellis, some 2 to 4m high. Bees will fly up and over these structures and should not worry neighbours.

Robbing and working hives

Avoid working bees when conditions are poor. If conditions are such that bees start to rob, they become savage, and the potential for trouble increases.

Beekeepers should cooperate with their neighbours when they need to work bees and ensure their neighbours are not working or relaxing outdoors at the time. Try to make hive manipulations as quick as possible so there is minimal disturbance to the bees.

A suggested useful way of removing honey supers is to use clearer boards overnight. These are available from beekeeping suppliers. The use of these boards is detailed in husbandry books such as the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland publication The Bee Book - beekeeping in the warmer areas of Australia. (P. Warhurst and R. Goebel. 1995).


Beekeepers are to place some physical barrier between the hive entrance and neighbours' lights. On warm to hot nights, bees are attracted to house lights, particularly fluorescent ones. If the wind6ws are not screened, problems can occur.

Honey Sheds

Honey houses should be beeproof. The return from the field of honey supers will invariably invite robber bees until honey can be extracted. Likewise extracted supers are most attractive to robber bees and therefore should not be exposed.

Under no circumstances should sticky supers be left out in the open to be cleaned up by foraging bees. This is not only a bee disease hazard but increases the risk to community members of bee stings.


These guidelines have been prepared by the beekeeping industry in consultation with the Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.

The contribution of individuals representing their groups is greatfully acknowledged.

Reference to the Victorian Code of Practice for Beekeeping, is also acknowledged.

Suggested reading

  • Warhurst, P and Goebel, R. (1995). The Bee Book. - beekeeping in the warmer areas of Australia. Department of Primary Industries, Queensland. ISSN 0727-6273. Available from DPI Publications, GPO Box 46, Brisbane Q 4001. ($48.00 plus postage).
  • DPI Farmnotes. Available from Department of Primary Indus-tries, Queensland, Information Centres and Apiary staff loca-tions.