September 07, 2013 18:43 Filed in: Real Estate Law
No Place Like “Comb”– Georgia Beekeeping Laws
In recent years it has become increasingly popular for homeowners to keep beehives on their property. As a lawyer and member of the board of directors for a local beekeepers organization, I get the occasional question on the legality of keeping bees on residential property. For the curious, here is a summary on Georgia law with regard to beekeeping (or skip to interesting facts about beekeeping, below):
Beekeeping Legality - Mostly Unrestricted
The most significant State law regarding beekeeping generally prohibits restrictions on keeping beehives. This law is found in OCGA §2-14-41.1 which states in part, “No county, municipal corporation, consolidated government, or other political subdivision of this state shall adopt or continue in effect any ordinance, rule, regulation, or resolution prohibiting, impeding, or restricting the establishment or maintenance of honeybees in hives.” However, there are two limitations to the general prohibition against restriction. First, the law specifically reserves zoning rights to locales. For example, a county may limit beehive density. Second, the law does not restrict private agreements such as those found in homeowner association restrictive covenants which may prohibit beekeeping.
Beekeeper Licensing - Generally No Licensing Required
A beekeeping sales license is required to legally sell bees. This law is found in OCGA §2-14-40 (a) which provides, “All persons, firms, or corporations desiring to carry on as a business the sale of bees, queens, nuclei, etc., shall apply to the Commissioner of Agriculture as ex officio state entomologist for a license to do so.”
However, the State of Georgia does not have a licensing requirement to be a beekeeper, although certifications can be obtained through the University of Georgia Department of Etymology. Per the UGA website, there are four levels of certification:
- Certified Beekeeper: Individual should be familiar with the basic skills and knowledge necessary for the beginning hobby beekeeper.
- Journeyman Beekeeper: Individual should be functioning as a competent hobby beekeeper with the skills and knowledge for moving into sideline beekeeping if desired.
- Master Beekeeper: Individual should be able to function as a sideline or commercial beekeeper. Can also demonstrate knowledge in such areas as bee botany, business aspects of beekeeping, honey and bee-related judging, bee behavior and other specialty areas.
- Master Craftsman Beekeeper: Individual should have general knowledge of all relevant areas of beekeeping as well as be a specialist in one or more selected topics. Level is comparable to a graduate program in apiculture at a major U.S. university.
Beehive Registration - Generally No Registration Required
Some counties require the registration of beehives. Hobbyists are not required to register hives at the State level, although Georgia law reserves the right by the Commissioner of Agriculture to require registration. Registration of hives facilitates inspection “for the primary purpose of combating the spread of bee diseases, Africanized bees, or any other threat to honeybees in this state” (OCGA §2-14-43). It’s interesting to note that Chatham County (Savannah) requires registration to protect hives during pest control and mosquito spraying.
Did You Know?
Here are some interesting facts about honeybees...The honeybee is not native to North America, but is still the State insect of Georgia! In fact, the honeybee was brought over from Europe in the early 1600s and those European bees developed as a subspecies originally migrating from Africa. And about that Africanized bee...The Africanized honeybee (or "AHB") is still the bee of choice for honey production in South America. The AHB is not visually distinguishable from the European honeybee and they both produce honey. The main difference is that the AHB is aggressive compared to the calm nature of the European bee. One last factoid: the beekeeper is the best defense against the AHB. Since American beekeepers only raise the non-aggressive European species, research has shown in Florida, ironically, that the AHB has been found primarily where beekeeping has been restricted out of fear of the AHB.
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