VBA Best Beekeeping Practices


All hives and locations must be registered with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Maintain membership in a local and/or state beekeeping organization.

Actively participate in honey bee related meetings and beekeeping organizations.

Subscribe to one or more beekeeping journals to keep up to date on what is happening in the beekeeping industry.

Take a beekeeping class, and/or attend club sponsored workshops.

Work towards completing the VBA Certification Program.

Visit and explore the many great beekeeping websites online.

Be wary of social media solutions 

Considerations For Hive Placement And Maintenance

Keep records of all bee related activities.

Maintain hive numbers appropriate for the size of the property taking into consideration the surrounding land uses and potential for negative human or animal interactions.

Keep no more than 2 hives (and one nuc) on a property of ¼ acre or less.

Keep no more than 4 hives (and 2 nucs) on a property of ¼ to ½ acre.

Keep no more than 6 hives (and 3 nucs) on a property of ½ to 1 acre.

Regardless of lot size: if all hives are situated at least 200 feet in any direction from all property lines of the lot on which the apiary is situated, no limit on the number of hives.

Regardless of lot size: as long as all adjoining property that falls within a 200 foot radius of any hive is undeveloped property, no limit on the number of hives.

No hives will be maintained in a residential area in such a manner as will constitute a substantial nuisance to any neighbors, pets or livestock.

No hives should be located within 10 feet of any property line.

All hives within 20 feet of a property line should have a solid fence or vegetative barrier 5 feet or more in height between the hives and the property line.

All hives within 30 feet of a public sidewalk or roadway should have a solid fence or dense vegetative barrier or be elevated so as to direct the fight path of the bees well above traffic and pedestrians.

Do not locate any hives within 50 feet of any tethered, fenced, or kenneled animal.

Build or plant screens so hives are out of sight as much as possible.

Use neutral colors for hives so that they may “blend in” better with their surroundings.

An adequate supply of water should be provided from March 1 to October 31.


Routine And On-going Maintenance

Maintain only gentle colonies and employ good swarm control techniques.

Re-queen any colonies that act aggressively over a period of time.

Ideally, all queens should be marked.

All hives must be in moveable frame hives to facilitate inspection for brood diseases.

Colonies should be inspected by the beekeeper, OR their delegate, periodically to insure they are queen-right, have no unmanaged disease or pest issues and have adequate space for expansion of both the brood nest and for honey storage.


When And How To Inspect Colonies

Do not manipulate or disturb colonies if neighbors or the general public are participating in outside activities or using machinery within 75 feet of the apiary.

Do not open colonies when the weather is not favorable.

Only inspect colonies during the brightest and warmest times of the day, usually late morning to mid-afternoon, when field bees are most likely to be out foraging.

Extended hive manipulations, especially removing honey, should be planned to accommodate neighbors’ activities.

Beekeepers should always use a smoker when working bees and when mowing or trimming around colonies.

Maintain good sanitation practices in the bee yard to avoid any robbing or attracting unwanted wildlife.


Treatments For Diseases And Pests

Be able to identify diseases, mites, and other hive abnormalities.

These would include American Foulbrood Disease, European Foulbrood Disease, Chalkbrood Disease, Sac Brood Disease, Varroa Mites, Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome; Drone Layers, Laying Workers and Queenless Colonies.

Incorporate Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for mite control by using resistant stock and other mite reducing strategies such as screened bottom boards, drone comb removal, etc.When/if using mite control materials read and follow all label directions.

Avoid using used brood chambers,  brood frames, and tools from other beekeepers as the potential incidence for disease transmission is present.


Honey Extraction And Marketing

Only harvest honey when it is sufficiently “ripe”. Using a refractometer helps to assure this condition.

When harvesting, keep all exposed honey covered to prevent robbing and/or possible contamination from dust, dirt or other foreign material

Extract honey as soon as possible after harvesting.

Keep the honey processing area clean and free from any possible contaminants.

Use only clean equipment and containers when processing and packing honey and other hive products.

Label your honey properly if being sold into the retail market.

Portions of this document are borrowed from the following sources:

"Best Management Practices for Beekeeping", Maine State Beekeepers Association, 8/10/12.

"Best Management Practices for Maintaining. European Honey Bee Colonies in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania".