Keeping honey bees in Ontario is a regulated activity under the Ontario Bees Act. The main purpose of the Act is to protect the health of honey bees, particularly from pests and diseases.

The rules and regulations in place for keeping honey bees in Ontario include, but are not limited to:

  • beekeeper registration
  • obligation to report pests and disease
  • permits
  • location of where honey bees may be kept
  • apiary signage
  • requirements to clean-up dead colonies
  • actions that can be taken by the ministry and/or a beekeeper when pests and/or disease or non-compliances are found

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) Apiary Program conducts inspections under the Bees Act. Inspections are conducted for various reasons, including suspected or reported honey bee pests and/or diseases, issuance of permits, complaints or follow-up on compliance actions.

Ontario’s beekeeping laws

The Bees Act and its regulation set out the requirements governing beekeeping in Ontario. This webpage provides a summary of the beekeeping laws, but you can find a complete set of provincial rules that relate to beekeeping in:

Learn about requirements for honey under O. Reg. 119/11.

Requirements under the Bees Act

OMAFRA’s Apiary Program administers and enforces the Bees Act, which sets the rules governing beekeeping in Ontario. These rules are in place primarily to protect the health of honey bees, but there are also rules in place to keep the public safe and ensure the integrity of the apiculture industry. The following provides a high-level summary of the rules and regulations for beekeeping in Ontario.

Beekeeper registration

Any person who owns or is in possession of honey bees or used beekeeping equipment in Ontario requires a valid certificate of registration from OMAFRA’s Apiary Program. As a beekeeper, you must register yourself and the location(s) where your bees or used equipment reside. The Provincial Apiarist maintains a register of all beekeepers in Ontario and this helps the Apiary Program effectively administer the Bees Act and its apiary inspection program.

Learn how to register as a beekeeper.

Apiary pests and disease

Regulation 57 names the pests and diseases of concern for Ontario.

If a beekeeper finds a named pest and/or disease in their colonies or equipment, they are responsible and obligated to take certain actions, including:

  • immediately reporting to a local apiary inspector if any pest is present or disease exists in their honey bees or beekeeping equipment
  • not receiving or transporting a pest within Ontario in any manner
  • not concealing the presence of any pest or existence of any disease
  • not exposing any infected honeycomb or honey or making it accessible to honey bees

Pests or diseases of concern include American foulbrood, European foulbrood, small hive beetle and varroa mites at high levels. Learn more about honey bee pests and diseases here.

If a pest and/or disease is present or an OMAFRA Apiary Inspector has reasonable grounds to believe that a pest is present or disease exists in any honey bees or beekeeping equipment, the inspector may require the beekeeper to take action(s). The action(s) may be voluntarily completed by the beekeeper or the inspector may order the beekeeper to take specified action(s). The actions that may be required are:

  • treat or disinfect bees or beekeeping equipment by a specified date
  • retain the bees and beekeeping equipment at the bee yard for a specified period of time
  • destroy by fire, or by other means approved by the Provincial Apiarist, by a specified date the bees or beekeeping equipment that cannot be suitably treated or disinfected

Permits for selling or importing honey bees or used equipment

Ontario beekeepers require a valid apiary permit to sell live honey bees or used beekeeping equipment within Ontario, or any time there is a change of ownership, or to import honey bees into Ontario from another Canadian province or internationally.

Learn about the permits and requirements for selling or giving away honey bees and used beekeeping equipment in Ontario.

Learn about the requirements for moving bees through Ontario and importing bees or used equipment from other Canadian provinces and outside the country.

Where honey bee colonies can be located

Placement of honey bee colonies must be compliant with the location requirements specified in the Bees Act. No colonies can be located or placed within:

  • 30 m of a property line separating the land on which the hives are placed from land occupied by a dwelling or used for a community center, public park or other space used for public assembly or recreation
  • 10 m of a highway

Landowners and beekeepers are encouraged to conduct their own due diligence over and above the requirements set out in the Bees Act as to the appropriateness of the location and the risks to the public (negative human-bee interactions, stinging incidents, allergies, close proximity of neighbours) with the placement of colonies at any location. It should be noted that many beekeepers place their honey bee colonies on another person’s property (with permission) after ensuring the location is suitable for honey bees (abundance of forage, distance requirements, water source). These locations are most often in rural settings. Honey bees placed in residential or urban locations are most often problematic and usually not compliant with location requirements.

Disposal of dead or abandoned honey bee colonies

Dead honey bee colonies (colonies where all, or nearly all, the bees have died) or improperly/ irregularly managed or maintained colonies or equipment increase the health risks to other nearby honey bee colonies and the apiculture industry at large. As the pest and disease opportunities are greater and invite robbing, beekeepers are to properly dispose of dead honey bee colonies or exposed honeycomb that are accessible to bees. Also, beekeepers are to attend their colonies regularly and properly with regular management of the brood nest.

Learn about the risks and what to do if you suspect a bee yard has been abandoned.

Bees without movable frames

A beekeeper is not allowed to keep bees in a hive without movable frames. This is because it does not allow the beekeeper or an apiary inspector the ability to examine the interior of the brood nest for the presence of pests and disease. Regular management of the brood nest is an important activity for ensuring colony health and is a key part of beekeeping.

Signage in a bee yard

The Bees Act requires beekeepers to post a sign within each of their apiaries for the primary purpose of quickly identifying the beekeeper (owner of the colonies) to the Ontario Apiary Program and/or OMAFRA Apiary Inspector. Signage is not intended to notify or provide information to the public or to provide a means for the public to contact a beekeeper. The sign is required to be located in the bee yard, not in an area outside of the apiary and the sign is to be at least 24 cm high and 50 cm wide with the beekeeper’s name and address visible on it.

Beekeeper appeal of inspector Orders

A beekeeper who considers themselves aggrieved by an Order of an inspector may appeal it to the Director. The beekeeper must provide notice of their appeal to the Director within five days of receiving the Order. Preferably notice is giving in writing, but oral or telephone notice is accepted. The Director may and will likely require grounds for the appeal to be specified in writing prior to the appeal hearing.

Appointed inspectors

Apiary inspectors

Apiary Inspectors are appointed under the Bees Act. Their regulatory duties include inspecting honey bee colonies and/or equipment, responding to complaints, compliance actions and issuing Selling Permits to beekeepers.

Apiary Inspectors may:

  • inspect any honey bee colonies, beekeeping equipment and records required by the Act or regulations when instructed to do so by the Provincial Apiarist or at their discretion
  • take samples to determine the presence of a pest or existence of a disease
  • issue Selling Permits
  • take actions to gain compliance, which may include voluntary actions by beekeepers or by generating and delivering Orders under the Bees Act
  • request a beekeeper to assist them in an inspection at the beekeeper’s bee yard; the beekeeper is obligated to assist when asked
  • enter any premise between sunrise and sunset, other than a dwelling, where bees, beekeeping equipment or records pertaining to beekeeping are kept or stored, to conduct their inspection duties

Find your local Apiary Inspector.

Provincial Apiarist

The Provincial Apiarist is appointed under the Bees Act. In addition to having all the powers of an inspector, the Provincial Apiarist is responsible for issuing Queen and Nuc and Import Permits to beekeepers and oversees honey bee health and disease issues by working collaboratively with the industry, researchers and other specialists on strategies for bee health in Ontario.