The Rules for Successful Beekeeping

Thursday 2 November 2023

In Atlantic Canada, there are four legislative acts that govern our daily beekeeping activities. Each Atlantic province has their own act in place, and the rules and regulations between acts have several similarities and differences. We are fortunate to have these acts to protect the beekeeping industry. These acts have been meticulously written with their primary focus on preventing and managing pests and diseases so that our industry can continue to be successful.  

The Rules for Successful Beekeeping

In Atlantic Canada, beekeeping is governed by four distinct legislative acts, each tailored to the unique needs of their respective provinces. The Bee Industry Act1 in Nova Scotia mandates annual registration for beekeepers. It also has strict guidelines for the sale of bees and used beekeeping equipment, and requires permits for the importation of bees and used equipment. New Brunswick's Bee Act2 is closely aligned with Nova Scotia (Table 1). On the other hand, Prince Edward Island's Animal Health Act3 is less stringent, with no registration or renewal requirements but gives the Provincial Apiarist authority to regulate honey bee genetic material sales. Newfoundland and Labrador's Animal Health and Protection Act4 takes a hands-off approach, with no registration, renewal, or specific regulations for buying and selling, but a firm requirement for permits to import bees and used equipment into the province.

Table 1. Comparison of the 4 Atlantic Canada honey bee legislative acts.


Legislative Act

Required Beekeeping Registration

Registration Renewal Period

Rules and Regulations for Buying and Selling

Importation of Bees and Used Beekeeping Equipment

Nova Scotia

Bee Industry Act (2005)


Must occur by November 1st each year.

The beekeeper must have the bees or used equipment inspected.

Not allowed without a permit from the Minister.

New Brunswick

Bee Act (2023)

Replaced the Apiary Inspection Act


Must occur between May 15th and June 29th.

The beekeeper must have the bees or used equipment inspected.

Not allowed without a permit from the Provincial Apiculturist.

Prince Edward Island

Animal Health Act (2019)



The Provincial Apiarist can prohibit the beekeeper from selling genetic material of honey bees.

Not allowed without a Genetic Material Health Certificate from the Provincial Apiarist.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Animal Health and Protection Act (2012)



There are no specified restrictions for buying and selling honey bees and used equipment.

Not allowed without a permit from the Minister.


An example of the benefits to having mandatory registration is occurring in Australia. Australia's proactive approach to beekeeping regulations has proven instrumental in effectively tracking and mitigating the spread of Varroa mites. With a continent-wide registration system, Australian authorities can monitor the movement of hives, their owners, and the locations of apiaries. This detailed data has allowed for rapid implementation of quarantine zones and inspection protocols in affected areas, preventing the mite from establishing a stronghold. Another example occurred in New Brunswick when the Small Hive Beetle (SHB) was detected in 2017, and mandatory registration was proven to be a vital asset in tracking and monitoring SHB for the province. Provinces without legislated registration may leave their beekeepers vulnerable to emerging pests or disease. The registration of beekeepers may be particularly important to maintaining Newfoundland’s Varroa free status.

Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are actively moving towards implementing a mandatory registration system. By introducing mandatory registration, both provinces aim to establish comprehensive databases of beekeepers and apiaries to provide authorities with vital information to respond to disease outbreaks. This proactive approach will align these provinces with the best regulatory practices in other provinces. Although, even with the support of industry, these changes are often slow due to the complexity of creating and enacting new legislation.

Beekeeping is not done in isolation. All beekeeping practices extend past the boundaries of hives or apiaries. Therefore, it is crucial to have good beekeeping practices, rather than merely what is legally mandated. There are many things beekeepers should do, including voluntarily registering bees, even if that is not a legal requirement for a given province. This also extends to only buying and selling bees to/from registered, inspected beekeepers.

Understanding the beekeeping regulations in your province is essential for a successful and compliant beekeeping operation. It is also important to recognize that not only do beekeepers need to follow provincial laws, but also municipal bylaws were bees will often fall under the category of livestock. By adhering to these regulations, beekeepers can help the industry while preserving the well-being of their honey bee colonies.


  1. Bee Industry Act. Bee Industry Regulations. 2017.
  2. Bee Act, SNB. 2023.
  3. Animal Health Act. Bee Health Regulations. 2019.
  4. Animal Health and Protection Act. 2012.

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