Overview of Beekeeping Regulations in Ontario: What you should know if you own honey bees

Please contact apiary@ontario.ca for the report in PDF format.

The Ontario Bees Act is the legislation that regulates honey bees and beekeeping in Ontario. The main purpose of the act is to protect the health of honey bees, particularly from pests and diseases.

The main requirements of the Ontario Bees Act, as well as requirements for the safe production of honey under the Food Safety and Quality Act, are summarized here for beekeepers' convenience (see figure 1).

This overview is provided as information only. For a comprehensive set of requirements please visit:

Photo of honey bee and honey

Figure 1. Honey bees and honey

Photo of Honey bee colonies with honey bee actively foraging

Figure 2. Honey bee colonies with honey bee actively foraging

Photo of Apiary Inspectors acdtive in the field

Figure 3. Apiary Inspectors active in the field

Registration

Any person who owns or is in possession of bees or beekeeping equipment in Ontario, must apply for and hold a certificate of registration issued by the Provincial Apiarist under the Bees Act. There is no charge for registration.

Commercial beekeepers (those beekeepers operating 50 or more colonies) must renew their registration annually.

Beginning 2021, the Ministry moved from an annual registration renewal to a three-year registration renewal frequency for non-commercial (small-scale or hobbyist) beekeepers, which the Ministry considers to be those beekeepers who operate 49 or fewer honey bee colonies. This change to a three-year renewal cycle will be staggered and non-commercial beekeepers will be divided into three groups so that approximately one-third of non-commercial beekeepers will be required to renew their registration each year. Non-commerical beekeepers are automatically rolled into a three-year cycle for registration renewal, which is reflected by the expiration date given on individual certificates of registration and in the Bees Portal under individual accounts.

Please visit our website for information on honey bee registration.

Apiary Inspectors - Inspections

As honey bees may fly up to 8 km from their colony and from one colony to another, diseases can easily spread from a diseased colony to healthy colonies (figure 2). Honey bee pests and diseases may also be spread through the movement or sales of honey bees or used beekeeping equipment.

Apiary inspectors are appointed under the Bees Act and their duties include inspection for the presence of honey bee diseases and pests, and issuing permits to beekeepers. Apiary inspectors can inspect all honey bee colonies by instruction of the Provincial Apiarist , request of the beekeeper or at the discretion of the Apiary Inspector (figure 3).

A Provincial Apiarist is appointed under the Bees Act. The Provincial Apiarist is responsible for health and disease issues of honey bees in Ontario.

A list of regional apiary inspectors is provided on our website.

Selling and Purchasing Honey Bees - Required Permits

Beekeepers must obtain a permit when:

  • A beekeeper sells honey bees or used beekeeping equipment within Ontario. An apiary inspector will issue a permit demonstrating the health of the material following an inspection. Beekeepers selling bees or equipment are also required to provide information on the beekeeper purchasing the bees or equipment.
  • Bees are leaving Ontario - the receiving province or country may require inspection reports, and in some cases a permit or similar document.
  • Bees are leaving Ontario for pollination and then returning to Ontario.
  • Bees are brought into Ontario from another province or another country. For international imports, a federal import permit must also be obtained through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
    1-800-442-2342 / 1-613-225-2342 / TTY 1-800-465-7735

For more information on permits please visit our website or contact the Apiculture Program. Contact information provided below.

Reporting Pests and Diseases

Beekeepers must report all cases of the disease American Foulbrood (Paenibacillus larvae) (figure 4) and the pest Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida) (figure 5) to the Apiculture Program. It is unlawful to conceal the presence of these honey bee pests and diseases. Beekeepeers are encouraged to inform inspectors of any symptoms of pests and diseases in honey bee colonies that are not typical (Sections 9 and 10).

Photo of American Foulbrood

Figure 4. American Foulbrood

Photo of adult small hive beetle

Figure 5. Adult small hive beetle

Movable Frame

The act requires all hives to have movable frames. This is important because it allows inspectors and the beekeeper to access the brood nest of the hive to monitor for disease and pests in the honey bee colony. (Section 6).

Disposal of Dead Colonies

Dead honey bee colonies and used equipment must not be abandoned or left exposed where they can be accessed by healthy, foraging honey bees (Section 15).

Signs and Postings

Beekeepers are required to post a sign with their name and address at each beeyard (Section 8 (2)).

Distance Requirements

Honey bee colonies cannot be placed within 30 metres of a property line separating the land on which the hives are placed or left from land occupied as a dwelling or used for a community centre, public park or other place of public assembly or recreation.

Hives, with or without bees, cannot be located within 10 metres of a highway (Section 19).

Treatments for Honey Bee Diseases

A list of all available, legally registered treatments for the management of honey bee pests and diseases is updated annually by the Apiculture Program and is provided in the document "Ontario Treatment Recommendations for Honey Bee Disease and Mite Control".

Photo of sampling for varroa levels in honeybee colonies.

Figure 6. Sampling for varroa levels in honeybee colonies is important.

Requirements for the Safe Production of Honey

Ontario Regulation 119/11, Produce, Honey and Maple Products under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 came into effect on July 1, 2011. It replaced Regulation 384, Honey, under the Farm Products Grades and Sales Act.

Ontario Regulation 119/11 regulates the grading, packaging, labelling, transporting, advertising and sale of honey, and applies to honey not otherwise subject to the federal Canada Agricultural Products Act.

The requirements for honey include the following:

  • Grade and colour: Honey (other than comb honey) must be sold by grade and colour class. There are three Ontario grade standards, Ontario No. 1, Ontario No. 2 and Ontario No. 3. The colour class standards for honey are: White, Golden, Amber and Dark. During the phase-in period (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2013), packers can continue to use federal "Canada" grade standards and names on labels.
  • Container size: Honey (other than comb honey) must be packed in a 330 g container or any container permitted for honey under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. Bulk containers for honey must have a weight capacity of more than 5 kg.
  • Labelling: Requirements are outlined in the OMAFRA infosheet entitled "Label Requirements for Honey in Ontario". In addition to provincial requirements, labels must comply with federal requirements under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Food and Drugs Act, e.g. nutrition labelling.
  • Food safety: The regulation prohibits the sale of contaminated honey and the mixing of contaminated honey with non-contaminated honey.
  • Accuracy of information: The regulation prohibits false or misleading information on labels, packaging, containers and advertising of honey.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca