The Georgia Department of Agriculture supports and endorses agricultural activities across the state. Since nearly one-third of our food is the direct result of pollination by insects, honey bees are very important. In fact, more than 100 agricultural crops in the U. S. are pollinated by bees.
Although many people make a living from honey bees, most beekeepers have only a few hives and many reside in urban and suburban areas. The Georgia General Assembly recognizes the importance of honey bees – even in the urban and suburban environment – and has adopted several statutes to protect beekeepers. These statutes are:
- O.C.G.A. §1-3-3, apiary products are included in the definition of “agriculture”,
- O.C.G.A. §2-1-6, relates to local ordinances and production of agricultural farm products,
- O.C.G.A. §2-14-41.1, local governments cannot prohibit beekeeping, and
- O.C.G.A. §41-1-7, commonly called the Georgia “Right To Farm Law”.
Although the Georgia General Assembly and the Georgia Department of Agriculture recognize the importance of beekeeping, it is up to each individual beekeeper to promote a positive image of beekeeping. Beekeepers are encouraged to be “good neighbors”. This includes providing adequate water sources for your bees, placing hives in a manner to lessen the likelihood of a neighbor getting stung, responding to neighbors’ concerns, and maintaining only the number of hives your land can support.
Before purchasing bee hives, check with your local zoning office to see if there is a maximum number of hives that can be maintained in your neighborhood.
The Food Safety Division administers state laws, rules, and regulations for food sales and processing establishments, including honey houses. Georgia beekeepers that process and sell their own honey to end users (at fairs, farmers' markets, out of their home, own place of business, etc.) are not required to be licensed. However, the honey must be processed in a sanitary environment. Please read this Honey Producer Guideline by our Food Safety Division for more infomation.
LICENSING REQUIREMENT FOR BEEKEEPERS
The Georgia Bee Law (O.C.G.A. 2-14-40) requires that all beekeepers selling bees, queens, nuclei, etc. commercially be licensed. All other beekeepers (e.g. hobbyists, pollinators, honey producers) are not required to be licensed or inspected by the Plant Protection Section.
Although not required by Georgia regulations, many states will not permit the entry of bee hives unless they have been inspected by the Plant Protection Section and found free of pests.
Please e-mail David Williams if you would like more information on a commercial apiary license or moving bees interstate.
AFRICANIZED HONEY BEES
Africanized honey bees have been established in Florida since 2005. The Plant Protection Section has been monitoring for Africanized honey bees (or AHB, for short) since that time. There have been two detections of AHBs in Georgia, one in Albany (Dougherty County) in 2010 and one Bainbridge (Decatur County) in 2011.