Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Honey bee best management practice


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Best practice checklist

This list of recommended biosecurity practices allows you to assess your honey bee management. While all practices may not be applicable, working through the list will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of an apiary. This ensures the apiary has the best protection against the introduction and spread of new pests and diseases.

Once identified, a few simple and practical procedures can be implemented to strengthen areas of greatest risk. While changing everyday practices can take more effort in the short term, these will become second nature with time and are easier and cheaper than dealing with the introduction of a new pest.

Best practice checklist


Barrier systems

A major method of disease spread within an apiary or between apiaries is through the transfer of infected material between hives prior to disease symptoms being detected. A well-managed barrier system will contain potential spread to within defined units, and enable you to trace both the source and spread of a disease, which will help with management and eradication efforts.

A barrier system is a method of dividing apiaries into smaller sub-units to ensure there is no transfer of potentially infected materials between the sub-units. The overall purpose is that hives and hive components in one sub-unit are not interchanged with those from another sub-unit, however, how the barrier system is implemented will depend on the individual circumstances of the enterprise. Good record keeping and forward planning is essential, and all people working with the hives must understand how the system works for it to be effective.

The adoption of a barrier system will enhance traceability, biosecurity and quality assurance aspects of the beekeeping enterprise, as well as build upon best practice principles.

Quality assurance programs

Auditable quality assurance schemes can be valuable to beekeepers with benefits to biosecurity, market access, meeting specifications, customer expectations and food safety. The B-Qual Australia Program is an industry owned quality assurance scheme that allows beekeepers and honey packers to meet food safety and biosecurity requirements. If an apiary or business is accredited with B-Qual it is likely that some fundamental techniques of biosecurity best practice are already being applied.

Quality assurance programs are underpinned by best beekeeping and processing practices, which have been backed by research into hygiene, quality and chemical residues. Quality standards have been developed for apiary operations, extraction and packing plants, biosecurity procedures, organic production and other specialised activities.

Biosecurity signs

Well-designed signage informs visitors that biosecurity management of honey bees within an apiary is important, and that there is a shared responsibility for maintaining it. The signs serve to alert people that they should register their presence before entering the apiary, as well as demonstrating a beekeeper’s commitment to apiary hygiene and safety.

Biosecurity signs at entrances to a property or apiary should provide your name along with a contact phone number. In cases where hives are transported to different sites, signs should accompany hives and be placed at the new apiary site.

Biosecurity signs are also important when the apiary is situated on another property, providing contact details in case of chemical spraying or a biosecurity incident, such as an exotic pest detection.

Beekeepers can produce their own biosecurity signs using templates. One template is for a 900 x 600 corflute panel with four eyelets to be placed on gates to properties or apiaries. The second is for an A4 corflute sign that can be staked at each apiary or moved around with each load of hives.