Frequently Asked Questions

State of the bee industry in N.S

In 2016 there were about 28,200 hives in NS belonging to 451 beekeepers. There were 146 new beekeepers in 2016. There were 39 commercial beekeepers in 2016. Commercial beekeepers have 50 or more hives.

Commercial beekeepers have 95.6% of all hives in Nova Scotia. 20,581 NS hives were used in 2016 to pollinate crops such as lowbush blueberries.

Nova Scotia's bee population has been expanding. Following a high loss of hives in the winter (41% loss of hives) of 2010/2011, Nova Scotia's bee population increased from 12,779 hives in 2011 to 28,200 hives in 2016. The number of beekeepers has increased from 222 to 492.

Both government and beekeepers have worked to increase the number of bees and ways to support the bee industry.

The number of honey bee hives in Canada has increased between 2007 and 2015 by 22.4%. U.S. populations are also increasing. Nevertheless, beekeeping can be challenging because of new pests and diseases, environmental and economic factors.

What do I need to do to get started keeping bees in Nova Scotia?

In Nova Scotia there is a Bee Industry Act and Regulations. Under the Act there is a requirement to register with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture when you start to keep bees.  Please visit the NSDA Nova Scotia New Beekeeper Registration Information Page and send it by e-mail to:

Provincial Apiculturalist / Provincial Minor Use Coordinator
Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture
74 Research Drive
Bible Hill, NS, B6L 2R2
(902) 890-1565

What happens after your form is received?

  • a Beekeeper Code will be assigned to you
  • a package of information will be sent to you including a Certificate of Registration and documentation on  disease and pest control of honey bees
  • if you have an e-mail address you will be added to the Distribution list of Registered Beekeepers and you will start to receive  information on what is happening in the honey bee industry in Canada and in Nova Scotia in particular.

Questions on this process?  Contact the Bee Health Advisor with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture.

What should I do if I am buying or selling bees or used equipment in Nova Scotia?

Under the Nova Scotia Bee Industry Act anyone selling bees or used beekeeping equipment is required to have an inspection done before the sale takes place. Contact the Bee Health Advisor with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture to arrange for an inspection. Contact information: by phone or e-mail to or (902) 890-1565

What is the difference between the NSBA and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture Beekeeper and Apiary Registration?

The Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association (NSBA) is a non profit volunteer organization that represents the interest of beekeepers in the province. There is an annual membership fee paid to join the Association. Complete the online NSBA Membership Form to join the NSBA.

The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA) Beekeeper and Apiary Registration is a requirement under the NS Bee Industry Act. All new beekeepers are required to register with the NSDA and receive a Beekeeper Registration Code. There is no cost to register. Annually a Beekeeper and Apiary Registration form is mailed to all active beekeepers. The form must be completed and returned to the NSDA in order for a beekeeper to be registered for the following year. This annual registration process requires the beekeeper to provide such information as - number of colonies, honey production, over wintering information and a count of apiaries by county.

Can I transport bees or used beekeeping equipment into Nova Scotia from another province? What about from mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton?

The importation of bees into the province is regulated under the NS Bee Industry Act and Regulations. A NS registered beekeeper must request and receive a permit in order to import honey bees or used beekeeping equipment to Nova Scotia (NS). The permit request form can be found at

The permit details conditions of where bee material may be imported from and specific conditions for the importation. Conditions may differ significantly depending on origin and material to be imported. If bees are to be imported from outside of Canada a permit from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is required before a NS Permit will be issued.

No permit is required to move bees from mainland NS to Cape Breton. However Cape Breton has limited exposure to varroa mites and the Cape Breton Organic Beekeepers' Cooperative (CBOBC) are trying to limit further exposure of varroa mites to Cape Breton. To this end they are making efforts to supply honey bees to beekeepers in Cape Breton from bee stock already on the Island. Visit the CBOBC web site for more information.

What is a swarm and what should I do if I find one?

A swarm in very basic terms is a large group of worker honeybees with a queen looking for a new home. There are several reasons as to why honeybees swarm but it mainly comes down to a basic survival instinct where the bees reproduce at the colony level thereby creating two or more colonies from one. Honeybees have a virtual population explosion in the spring thereby creating very crowded conditions in a short time. This overcrowding will put the bees into swarm mode. Approximately two weeks before a swarm issues from a hive the bees start preparations by raising new queens in the hive and limiting the old queen's food intake to limit her egg laying, and slim her down so she is able to fly with the swarm. Just before the new queens start to emerge from their cells, providing the weather is favourable, the old queen and approximately half of the bees will leave the hive in a large roaring, swirling cluster. The queen will generally fly a short distance from the hive and land on a tree limb or any other convenient object and the workers will form a tight cluster all around the queen. These clusters can be as small as a baseball or as large as a soccer ball or larger, and are what are referred to as a swarm of bees. The bees will remain in this cluster for several hours or several days until they decide on a new home location, at which point they will take flight and go to their new home and start a new colony. Swarms are most common in late spring and to a lesser extent in late summer but may happen at any time between late spring and early fall. If you happen to find a swarm of bees here are a few suggestions as to what to do:

Stay a safe distance away and do not disturb the bees. In most cases the bees will be gone in a few hours, but in some cases the cluster may hang there for several days.
If you know a beekeeper in your area you may want to notify her or him to see if they want to remove or capture the swarm. Otherwise, it is best to leave the bees alone and let nature take its course.