Forward this email | View in web browser
Close up image of a bee on a honeycomb with an overlay stating ‘Backyard Biosecurity, it’s up to all of us’ and ‘Agriculture Victoria’
Edition 7: Honey bees
In this edition:

Are you new to beekeeping or thinking of becoming a beekeeper?

Keeping bees in urban areas requires good husbandry skills — otherwise bees can have a negative impact on those who live close by. It requires significantly more effort and knowledge than simply putting some bees in a box.

Let us help you build a safe home for bees in your backyard and be a responsible beekeeper.

Join a beekeeping club

New beekeepers can learn from experienced beekeepers and gain valuable beekeeping advice, so we highly recommended you join a local beekeeping club or group in your area or find an experienced beekeeper willing to be a mentor while you learn about beekeeping.

The club or group can point you in the right direction of a registered reputable beekeeper, where you can purchase your first disease free bee hive or sign up to be part of their swarm catching program.

They can also provide advice and support on things such as:

  • the type of hive you could have
  • the best time of year to obtain your hive  
  • how to get prepared with required personal protection equipment and hive wear
  • how to keep records
  • new beekeeping technologies
  • understanding pests and diseases
  • what bee food to plant in your garden
  • how to create an appropriate water source for the bees

Some groups also offer access to libraries, where you can borrow relevant beekeeping books, specific for our Australian climate. 

For beekeeping clubs and associations please contact the Victorian Apiarist Association (VAA):

Screenshot of the BeeMAX website header

In Victoria, if you own one or more beehives you must register as a beekeeper with Agriculture Victoria. This is a condition under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994.

Registration online is free if you own 1-5 hives, $30 for 6-50 hives and $0.60 per hive for 51+ hives.

Registration enables the department to conduct disease prevention and control programs to benefit beekeepers. This includes the emailing of helpful information from time to time including legislative amendments and biosecurity alerts and advice.

Apply for registration as a beekeeper using the BeeMAX beekeeper database or call 1800 356 761.

For further information visit the honey bees page on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Protective clothing

It is essential that adequate protective clothing, including a bee veil, is worn and techniques for safe handling of bees are understood before opening hives.

New beekeepers should read safe beekeeping practices

Diagram of a man wearing various protective clothing items: Beekeeper's hat, beekeper's veil, beekeeping gloves, a pair of overalls and a pair of boots.
Water supply
Four bees drinking water

A strong colony of bees will use over a litre of water on a warm day. Ensure you provide a good water supply for your bees — in a partially shaded position where possible and in close proximity to the hives. Never assume that the colony will satisfy its water requirements without your help.

Pests and diseases

Inspect your hives regularly for anything unusual. There are a number of established pests and diseases of honey bees in Australia that have an impact on the strength and productivity of a colony.

Under the ‘Honeybee Biosecurity Code of Practice’ beekeepers must regularly inspect their hives for exotic diseases and pests such as Varroa mite, American foulbrood (AFB), European foulbrood, Chalkbrood, Braula fly or Nosema

If you have any suspicions of these diseases you must notify an apiary officer (contact details below).

You can undertake free biosecurity training at Biosecurity Online Training – Plant Health Australia to recognise the signs of these diseases and to learn about best practices to prevent the risk of these diseases occurring in your hives.

Left photo shoes a person pulling a match stick out of a honeycomb. Right photo  shows a honey uncapper with multiple drone larvae attached

Photo 1. American foulbrood (AFB) infected brood cells. Showing sunken, perforated cappings and the pupae remains roped out about 25mm (1 inch) using the match stick test.


Photo 2. Drone uncapping test. Using a honey uncapper, pierce and remove drone larvae looking for mites.

Varroa mite (Varroa destructor)

Close up of adult bee with Varroa mite

Image. Close up of adult bee with Varroa mite (Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is a serious, exotic parasite of adult European honey bees and their brood. It weakens and kills honey bee colonies and can also transmit honeybee viruses. Varroa mite presents a serious risk to a native bee population and to the industry.

Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) was reported in sentinel hives at the Port of Newcastle in New South Wales (NSW) on Friday 24 June 2022. Varroa mite has not been detected in Victoria to date, but the risk of an incursion in Victoria remains high. Everyone has a role to play to ensure we remain free of this pest.

A Control Area Order remains in place for the state of Victoria. A permit is required for anyone bringing bees, hives, queen bees, used beekeeping equipment, pollen for bee feeding, and bee products, including honeycomb, into any part of Victoria from any state or territory.

Victoria continues to support the National Varroa emergency response, and the work being undertaken in NSW. Visit NSW Varroa mite emergency response for more information on the current situation in NSW.

For more information, visit the following Agriculture Victoria’s web pages.

Remember, early reporting of any suspicious signs increases the chance of effective control and eradication.If you are suspicious of an exotic disease or pest such as Varroa mite, please contact the Exotic Plant Pest Plant Hotline on 1800 084 881 immediately.


Have a listen to the following podcasts from the Urban Plant Health Network series: The Good, The Bad and the Bug-ly.

Close up of a bee on a yellow flower with overlay stating 'Podcast'

Episode 8: Keeping your backyard bees healthy with Cynthia Kefaloukos

In this episode Cynthia Kefaloukos, Apiary Pest and Disease Officer with Agriculture Victoria discusses what is actually involved in keeping bees in Victoria, and how Agriculture Victoria is working to protect the apiary industry for both commercial beekeepers and hobby beekeepers.

Person (Ally Driessen) wearing bee protective clothing holding a covered tube with overlay stating 'Podcast'

Episode 15: Are you a honey bee pest warrior? with Ally Driessen

This episode, you will hear from Bee Biosecurity Officer with Agriculture Victoria, Ally Driessen, talking all things honey bees and biosecurity and how beekeepers can become honey bee pest warriors.

Bee flying up to a flower with overlay stating 'Podcast'

Episode 17: The solitary life of native bees with Robert McDougall

This episode explains what some of the more common native bees look like and where they like to live, and how you can encourage them into your garden

Close up of a bee on a blue flower with overlay stating 'Podcast'

Episode 19: What’s all the buzz about bumblebees? with Michael Whitehead

Listen to Invasive species analyst, Michael Whitehead, explain why the large earth bumblebee is not the kind of bee you want to hear buzzing around your garden, and what to do if you suspect you find one.

Multiple bees on a honeycomb

Honeybees need to be cared for and managed — just like other livestock. Once the decision has been made to keep bees, you have a legal and moral obligation to maintain the bees in:

  • a healthy state
  • such a way that they do not become a nuisance to other people

The bees must be kept in accordance with the:

​For more information visit legal obligations of beekeepers on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Honeybee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice

There is also an ‘Australian Honeybee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice’ that must be implemented in your apiary.

This Code has been developed in consultation with beekeepers to provide a clear framework for beekeepers to engage in best practice biosecurity.

You can find the ‘Biosecurity Code of Practice' on the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council website.

Agriculture Victoria Apiary Officers

Apiary officers can be contacted via the customer contact centre on 136 186 or by emailing

Keep an eye out for the next email where will look at supporting wildlife on your farm.

If you are enjoying this newsletter series, then why not forward to a friend?


Agriculture Victoria

Further information

Contacting Agriculture Victoria

Call 136 186 from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call (except for mobiles and public telephones).

If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment contact the National Relay Service on 133 677 or

All contact points can be found at:

Don't forget to check out Agriculture Victoria's social media sites for up-to-date information and news.



'Like' our Agriculture Victoria Facebook page.


Follow us on Twitter @VicGovAg


Subscribe to the Agriculture Victoria YouTube channel. 


Privacy | Email: