Code of Practice for Beekeeping in Residential Areas of the ACT

The Code of Practice for Beekeeping in Residential Areas of the ACT (PDF 893KB) provides minimum standards for the management of urban beehives.

Urban beekeepers are strongly encouraged to observe the Code which aims to ensure that good beekeeping practices are maintained in the ACT. The Code is a good reference point for amateur backyard beekeepers, as well as members of the public concerned about beekeeping practices in their neighbourhood.

It is important to be aware that the Animal Diseases Regulation 2006 prohibits the keeping of honeybees other than in frame hives. The regulation also prohibits a person from exposing honey or honey comb, other than in a frame hive, in a way that honeybees may have access to it as this can lead to the spread of diseases. For the same reason, a beekeeper should never feed honey to honey bees.

Registration for bee hives

Canberra beekeepers are required to register their hives under amendments to the Animal Diseases Act 2005. This helps the ACT Government easily identify and contact beekeepers in the event of any possible outbreak of bee-related disease.

Registration is free and valid for three years and can be done using the online register as a beekeeper form. Both commercial and non-commercial operators need to register, unless they have already registered in NSW.

Registered beekeepers are also asked to adhere to the Code of Practice for Beekeeping in Residential Areas, maintain a record of movement or sale or disposal of beehives; and promptly notify the ACT Chief Veterinary Officer of any signs of a notifiable disease.


Bees generally swarm between August and December. Bees are not usually aggressive and will go about their day to day duties unless they feel threatened or are under attack. Try to avoid the flight path of bee swarms and leave them to their own devices.

If a bee swarm on government land is causing concern, call Access Canberra on 13 22 81. If the swarm is on private property call a Swarm Collector. A list is available on the ACT Beekeepers Association website.

Bee identification

Although bees and European wasps are similar in size and shape, you can differentiate between the two by their colours and markings. Bees are a dull shade of yellow or golden brown colour through to black, with black stripes around their body, but no black dot like the European wasp. European wasps are bright yellow and black with bright yellow legs. They are predominantly black on their front half with bright yellow markings, and predominantly bright yellow on their back half with black stripes and black dots between the stripes down each side of the abdomen (sometimes joining the stripes). European wasps have longer, thicker antennae than bees.

Bees nest in trees or wall cavities and have also been found in compost bins and cavities such as old suitcases. The most likely place for a European wasp nest to occur is in the ground, although they also nest in walls, ceilings and trees. Wasp nests are easily sighted due to the constant activity above the nest, although the nest entrance can be well hidden amongst vegetation.

Notifiable diseases of bees

Diseases of bees are administered under the Animal Diseases Act 2005. A number of bee diseases are notifiable (declared endemic and exotic diseases) under ACT legislation. This means there is a legal obligation to notify the ACT Government if you know or suspect that a hive is infected with a notifiable disease.

Declared endemic diseases under the Animal Diseases Act 2005 are American foulbrood and European foulbrood. Declared exotic diseases under the Animal Diseases Act 2005 are Africanised bees, Acariasis tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi), Africanised honeybees, Asian honeybee (Apis cerana), Braula fly (Bee louse, Braula coeca), Dwarf honeybee (Apis florae), Giant honeybee (Apis dorsata), Tropilaelaps mite (Tropilaelaps clareae), Varroasis (Varroa destructor) and Varroasis (Varroa jacobsoni).

You can notify of a suspected or confirmed notifiable disease by contacting Access Canberra on 13 22 81 and asking for the ACT Chief Veterinary Officer.

For further information on Exotic and Endemic Diseases in the ACT, refer to the Animal Diseases Act 2005.

Reporting of bees on ACT Government land

For information about Bees and reporting, please refer to Bees page on the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate website.