Abandoned bee yards
Learn about the risks and what to do if you suspect a bee yard has been abandoned.
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Abandonment can happen to apiaries, honey bee colonies or beekeeping equipment.
A bee yard (the place where a beekeeper’s bees and beekeeping equipment are located) is considered abandoned when:
- dead colonies of bees or honeycomb are present and left exposed in a manner that is accessible to other bees
- colonies of bees are not regularly or properly attended
There are a number of factors that may help determine if a bee yard is not regularly or properly attended:
- you have not seen the beekeeper for an extended period of time — particularly in the spring and summer
- the yard may appear unkept with debris, long grass, and no signs of recent entry or activity
- there may be a visible lack of colony care, such as:
- excessive burr comb
- propolis build-up between frames
- unmanaged pests or disease
- equipment in poor repair
- fall treatment strips still in place in spring
- winter covers still in place during the active season
Abandoned bee yards are at an increased risk of harbouring pests and diseases.
Dead colonies (colonies where all or nearly all the bees have died) that are not cleaned up or properly disposed of have a higher likelihood of being affected by a pest or disease.
Likewise, if a beekeeper does not regularly attend or appropriately manage their bee yard, colonies and equipment, the opportunity increases for the presence of pests and diseases without the beekeeper realizing.
Abandonment invites robbing, which results in:
- pests and diseases being spread within the bee yard or between nearby bee yards
- spillover and impacts to other wild pollinators in the area
In Ontario, the pests and diseases of concern include varroa mites, small hive beetle, American foulbrood, and European foulbrood.
Responsibilities of beekeepers
Beekeepers are responsible for:
- cleaning up and disposing of dead colonies and exposed honeycomb
- regularly and properly attending their yards
The frequency of beekeepers’ visits to their yards will vary based on the time of year. Beekeepers should generally attend their yards at least once every 2 to 3 weeks during the active beekeeping season (spring into fall months).
Read the best management and biosecurity practices for beekeeping in Ontario and essential practices for beekeepers to ensure healthy, productive managed honey bees in Ontario.
You can also learn more about good management practices through the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association and the University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre.
Learn about the rules and regulations for keeping honey bees in Ontario.
Report an abandoned bee yard
If you suspect a bee yard has been abandoned or is unattended, contact the beekeeper to learn more about the yard.
If you are unable to contact the beekeeper, notify OMAFRA’s Apiary Program at email@example.com or contact your local Apiary Inspector. We will investigate your report.
Be prepared to provide:
- the address of the suspected abandoned yard
- photos, if available
- your observations that led you to believe the yard has been abandoned