Honey bees have always played a vital role in agriculture and as such the department has overseen their inspection since House Bill 28 was approved on April 21, 1904. This long history has evolved as agriculture has evolved and changed across the state. Honey bees not only provide honey but are a vital source of pollination for many of the fruit and vegetable crops grown in Ohio such as apples, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins. They are also used to pollinate seed crops such as sunflower and canola.
The Apiary Program coordinates the state and county inspection services that help to ensure a healthy beekeeping industry for Ohio’s more than 6,000 apiaries. The Apiary Program works with several national groups and the USDA in providing samples for the study of Colony Collapse Disorder which caused massive colony deaths in various parts of the nation, including Ohio.
All apiaries in the state of Ohio must be registered with ODA as required by ORC 909.02. Your registration expires on May 31 annually. Please return your application for renewal and payment prior to June 1. Please note that any newly established apiaries are required to be registered within 10 days of receipt of the honey bees. The annual registration form can be downloaded here.
INSPECTION AND CERTIFICATION OF QUEEN REARING APIARIES
Any beekeepers who plan to raise bees to sell queens, nucs, or hives must first pass an inspection of their hives for the presence of any serious bee diseases or pests. This can be done by checking the Queen Inspection request box on your application and returning it by April 1 annually. Queen inspection may require sampling of a section of brood comb and 50-100 bees to test for the presence of serious bee diseases and pests. A Certificate of Inspection will be issued to beekeepers for their apiaries that are found to be healthy with pests below the recommended threshold. Beekeepers should ask to see this before purchasing any bees.
When purchasing nucs use the following as a guideline; a nuc should be a colony of bees in a box with three to eight frames containing a laying queen bee and her progeny in all life stages. The nuc shall have honey and a viable population sufficient enough to develop into a full-sized colony.
TRANSFER PERMIT/HEALTH CERTIFICATE
If you plan to sell, or otherwise transfer ownership of any bees or used beekeeping equipment please contact the Apiary Program to obtain a Transfer Permit/Health Certificate as required by RC 909.09. Please note that a Transfer Permit/Health Certificate cannot be issued if serious bee diseases or pests are detected above threshold levels.
IMPORTATION OF BEES OR USED BEEKEEPING EQUIPMENT
If you are planning to purchase bees or beekeeping equipment from outside of Ohio, please note that these items require an official Certificate of Inspection from the state of origin to accompany the shipment (RC 909.10). Bees brought into Ohio or moved out of Ohio also require a Certificate of Inspection.
ODA encourages all beekeepers to have their apiaries inspected to help detect pest and diseases; however beekeepers may file a “No Consent Form” by March 15 each year with the department which indicates that they are denying an inspector access to an apiary. A “No Consent Form” can be downloaded here. Note: all apiary(s) from which bees or queens are sold MUST be inspected prior to obtaining a Certificate.
Apart from the State Apiarist, apiaries in Ohio are monitored by county inspectors. These inspectors are appointed and paid by a county, however they submit their inspection reports to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. County appointed inspectors are a crucial component of the current program by providing hands-on interaction with beekeepers through the inspection process. County Apiary Inspectors increase the likelihood that the bees required for pollination are disease and pest free.
Inspection certificates are required for any person rearing queen bees or packaged bees before they can be sold or gifted. Permits are required of anyone selling, gifting or bartering bees, honeycombs, or used equipment.
Selling Queens, Nucs, Equipment
All Ohio beekeepers should be aware that any person engaged in queen rearing or queen, nuc, or package, etc. exchange must have their apiary locations inspected by ODA. These inspections are vital to ODA’s responsibility to protect the safety and sustainability of Ohio’s beekeeping industry and are necessary to ensure that bees develop from healthy pest/disease-free stock.
Apiary Inspection: Again, any person engaged in bee rearing to sell or trade queens, nucs, or colonies in Ohio must be inspected at least once each year. County Apiary Inspectors conduct these inspections. Inspectors collect a section of brood comb and 50-100 bees for testing by the USDA Bee Lab during these inspections.
Health Certificate: Inspectors issue a Certificate of Inspection (Health/Queen Certificate) to the apiary owner upon successful completion of this inspection. Pest and disease levels of all apiary locations must be below the respective USDA threshold for the inspection to be considered successful. Any person issued a Certificate of Inspection should make it available to anyone purchasing beekeeping materials from them, such as a queen, nuc, package, etc. A Certificate of Inspection will not be issued if the inspector detects the presence of any serious bee disease, pest, or Africanized populations. Again, no person may ship, sell, transfer, exchange, donate, or give away bees unless they have been issued a Certificate of Inspection. These Certificates typically expire annually on May 31 in the year after issuance. ODA maintains a list of apiaries with a Certificate of Inspection. That list is available to anyone that requests it.
Queen Rearing Notification to ODA: Apiary owners should make sure to identify any apiaries that require a Queen Certificate on the annual Apiary Registration Form, due on or before April 1 each year. Ensuring that your Apiary Registration Form properly indicates this information will help expedite the inspection process. ODA informs County Inspectors of apiary locations that have requested a Certificate of Inspection. County Inspectors will then contact apiary owners to schedule inspections. Owners that need to have a Queen Certificate in early spring, should contact ODA directly.
No Consent: Ohio Law requires all Queen rearing operations to be inspected. Any owner with concerns regarding the required inspection should contact ODA. Similarly, owners in counties that do not have an Inspector should contact ODA at 614-728-6373 or email@example.com. Please title all email requests for a queen inspection “Queen Request.”
Best Management Practices
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) have been successfully kept in rural, suburban, and urban areas for decades, in yards, community gardens, parks, municipal grounds, schools and rooftops. Because honey bees are task oriented and are primarily collecting food for the colony, they are not aggressive if properly managed.
These Best Management Practices (BMP) serve as parameters for maintaining colonies and describe proven techniques which will reduce incidents of honey bee / human/pet altercations. Beekeepers should follow these rules to improve the overall vigor of the bees and reduce the likelihood of experiencing an agitated neighbor.
Each colony has a unique genetic makeup which complicates the task of defining specific rules for every apiary, therefore these guidelines should be considered along with common sense for each situation. The BMPs are designed to improve understanding of beekeeping and improve relations between beekeepers, government personnel and the public.
For details about producing, labeling, and distributing honey, please see this fact sheet from the Division of Food Safety.
The sale and distribution of honey is regulated by the Division of Food Safety. A beekeeper that jars honey, when a minimum of 75% of the honey is from their own hives, is exempt from licensing, registration and mandatory inspection. If more than 25% of the honey sold comes from another beekeeper, then the honey processor is considered a "food processing establishment", and is subject to registration and inspection by the Division of Food Safety.
Regardless of whether or not honey is sold from home, a market or elsewhere, it must have a label (including honey products gifted or traded).
- Statement of Identity - the common or usual name of the food product;
- Net Quantity of Contents - If sold ON SITE the label must declare the net weight in the U.S. Customary System (ounces), but does not have to have the weight in metric (grams). If sold OFF SITE it must have both (ounces and grams).
- Statement of Responsibility - the name and address of the business.
Responsibilities for Beginning Beekeepers Video
Check out this collaborative video with GrowNextGen on the responsibilities for beginning beekeepers. Topics include how to establish and maintain a hive, how to find credible information online and the importance of honey bees to the agriculture industry.