Federal and State Bee Laws and Regulations


Revised October 1980
Pages 161 – 167

The Federal Government has no laws or regulations on bee diseases within the United States. However, on August 31, 1922, Congress passed a law, popularly known as the Honeybee Act, restricting importing living adult honey bees into the United States. This act was amended in 1947, 1962, and 1976. The 1976 amendment, Pub. L. 94-319, includes the following:

(a) In order to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases and parasites harmful to honeybees, and the introduction of genetically undesirable germ plasm of honeybees, the importation into the United States of all honeybees is prohibited, except that honeybees may be imported into the United States-

(1) by the United States Department of Agriculture for experimental or scientific purposes, or

(2) from countries determined by the Secretary of Agriculture-

(A) to be free of diseases or parasites harmful to honeybees, and undesirable species or subspecies of honeybees; and

(B) to have in operation precautions adequate to prevent the importation of honeybees from other countries where harmful diseases or parasites, or undesirable species or subspecies, of honeybees exist.

(b) Honeybee semen may be imported into the United States only from countries determined by the Secretary of Agriculture to be free of undesirable species or subspecies of honeybees, and which have in operation precautions adequate to prevent the importation of such undesirable honeybees and their semen.

(c) Honeybees and honeybee semen imported pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of this section shall be imported under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Treasury shall prescribe.

(d) Except with respect to honeybees and honeybee semen imported pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of this section, all honeybees or honeybee semen offered for import or intercepted entering the United States shall be destroyed or immediately exported.

(e) As used in this Act, the term “honeybee” means all life stages and the germ plasm of honeybees of the genus Apis, except honeybee semen.

Any person who violates any provision of section 1 of this Act or any regulation issued under it is guilty of an offense against the United States and shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $1,000, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

The Secretary of Agriculture either independently or in cooperation with States or political subdivisions thereof, farmers’ associations, and similar organizations and individuals, is authorized to carry out operations or measures in the United States to eradicate, suppress, control, and to prevent or retard the spread of undesirable species and subspecies of honeybees.

The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to cooperate with the Governments of Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, or the local authorities thereof, in carrying out necessary research, surveys, and control operations in those countries in connection with the eradication, suppression, control, and prevention or retardation of the spread of undesirable species and subspecies of honeybees, including but not limited to Apis mellifera adansonii, commonly known as the African or Brazilian honeybee. The measure and character of cooperation carried out under this subsection on the part of such countries, including the the expenditure or use of funds appropriated pursuant to this Act, shall be such as may be prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Arrangements for the cooperation authorized by this subsection shall be made through and in consultation with the Secretary of State.

In performing the operations or measures authorized in this Act, the cooperating foreign county, State or local agency shall be responsible for the authority to carry out such operations or measures on all lands and properties within the foreign country or State, other than those owned or controlled by the Federal Government of the United States, and for such other facilities and means as in the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture as necessary.

The first apiary inspection law in the United States was established in San Bernardino County, Calif., in 1877. By 1883, a statewide law was passed by the California legislature, and by 1906, 12 States had laws relating to foulbrood. At present, almost all States have laws regulating honey bees and beekeeping.

State laws and regulations relating to honey bees and beekeeping are designed primarily to control bee diseases. Therefore, they usually attempt to regulate movement and entry of bees, issuances of permits and certificates, apiary location control and quarantine, inspection, and methods of treating diseased colonies. These laws and regulations are summarized in tables 1, 2, 3, and 4. Tables 1 and 2 are compilations of the bee laws for intrastate regulation; tables 3 and 4 are compilations of bee laws regulating interstate movement of bees and used bee equipment in the United States.

Alaska has no intrastate or interstate laws, and Missouri has no intrastate laws (tables 1-4). Also, there is a lack of uniformity in State bee laws and regulations, but considerable agreement on specific points of law. Most States require registration of apiaries, permits for movement of bees and equipment interstate, certificates of inspection, right of entry of the inspector, movable-frame hives, quarantine of diseased apiaries, notification of the owner upon finding disease, prohibition of sale or transfer of diseased material, and use of penalties in the form of fines or jail or both. Although the destruction of American foul brood-diseased colonies is included in most State laws, table 2 shows that most States also allow the use of drugs for control or preventive treatment of this disease.

The key figure in the enforcement of bee laws and regulations is the apiary inspector. He may have the entire State, a county, or a community under his jurisdiction. His efforts are directed toward locating American foulbrood and eliminating sources of it whenever found.

The effectiveness of bee laws and regulations is based on the compliance of the beekeeper. In addition, responsibility for disease control remains with the beekeeper, who should routinely examine colonies for disease as a regular part of his management program and do what is necessary when disease is found.

State laws regulating interstate movement of bees and used beekeeping equipment vary considerably from State to State. More uniformity in interstate laws would be highly desirable and lead to a more efficient inspection service and more effective beekeeping.