Update The Bee Laws

Two/Three Important Questions and Answers

This week there has been lots of discussion around the particulars of HB 1293 to update the beekeeping laws in Texas. However, we’ve not formally answered the questions of why update the laws now and what are the benefits for the hobbyist beekeeper. That is the subject of this post.

“What was the impetus or concerns that lead to the drafting of HB 1293?”

Existing bee laws do not reflect current beekeeping practices, contain outdated regulations, and do not allow the Texas Apiary Inspection Service to its job of protecting the beekeeping industry in Texas.

More than 60 commercial, sideliner, and hobbyist beekeepers volunteered to participate in drafting the proposed legislation. There are four specific goals TBA desires to accomplish with this law update:

  • simplifying the permit and inspection requirements,
  • providing exemption from specific laws for hobbyist beekeepers with generally less than 25 hives,
  • updating the laws to reflect current beekeeping conditions and best practices in Texas, and
  • broadening the scope of TAIS’s role to include providing educational programs to improve beekeeping practices in Texas.

“How does HB 1293 benefit the hobbyist beekeeper?” / “Why should the hobbyist beekeeper support the passage of HB 1293?”

If HB 1293 is passed hobbyist beekeepers will see the following benefits:

  • Permits for inter- and intra-state transportation of bees – Hobbyist beekeepers would be exempt from fees but still need to apply for the appropriate permits
  • Bee health inspections or affidavit requirements – Hobbyist beekeepers would be exempt for annual sales of fewer than 25 queens, packages, colonies or nucleus hives, and 100 queen cells
  • Marking or identifying out-apiary equipment – Branding would not be the only approved method
  • Reporting every pest, disease, and species of bees – Beekeepers would only report those that are truly an issue for Texas beekeepers.

Agricultural laws and regulations in Texas are, in general, designed to protect industries important to the state. In the case of Section 131, the industry being protected is the production of bees and honey in Texas. Protection can mean to maintain economic viability for those engaged in beekeeping as a profession. It can also mean to protect all beekeepers from potentially devastating problems be they disease, pests, or abandoned potentially infested equipment. HB 1293 is designed to update and simplify the bee laws to keep pace with advancements in beekeeping and the threats beekeepers face.

TBA thanks all Texas beekeepers for their interest and support of HB 1293 for the betterment of beekeeping in our great state!

Please e-mail your questions to “131questions@texasbeekeepers.org”.

12 Replies to "Update The Bee Laws"

    February 6, 2017 (9:23 pm)

    Permits for inter- and intra-state transportation of bees – Hobbyist beekeepers would be exempt from fees but still need to apply for the appropriate permits

    Would this mean that as a hobbiest I would need to get a permit if I bought a package or nuc from a commercial beekeeper in another county, and wanted to pick the bees up in person and drive them home in my personal vehicle?

    • Roger Farr
      February 8, 2017 (10:58 am)


      Thanks for your question.

      Under the new bill hobbyist beekeepers are exempt from fees but still must apply for inter- or intra-state movement permits.

      This is true today. If you buy a nucleus of bees from a beekeeper in another county then yes, you need a permit, if you are the transporter. Packages of bees are exempt.

      Roger Farr
      TBA Area Director

      • Cameron Crane
        February 16, 2017 (6:18 am)

        Roger, Sec. 131.041 is about interstate movement of bees- meaning in or out of the state. That section does not apply to Intrastate which would be movement within the state. Under the proposal, Intrastate 131.042 is deleted. Thus your reply is correct for interstate movement, but a permit would not be required for moving bees within the state of Texas. Thus the answer to Paul’s question would be no, he did not need to get a permit to pickup bees in another county.

        • Roger Farr
          February 17, 2017 (5:58 pm)


          You are absolutely right.

          When HB 1293 becomes law, there would no longer be an “intrastate” permit as section 131.042 would be deleted. That is my error.

          There will still be an interstate permit required to move bees into or out of Texas, such as picking up a nucleus hive from an out of state producer in your own vehicle. For beekeepers with fewer then 25 hives, they would still need to apply for the interstate permit, but would not pay a fee.

          Thanks for point this out to me and to our readers!

          Roger Farr
          TBA Area Director

  • Mike Stein
    February 7, 2017 (5:40 am)

    35 other states or more have complete registration for anyone having 1 colony or more.
    Texas should do the same. No county in Texas can give an accurate colony count or locate colonies for spraying pesticides or if diseases break out.
    An average of 25 hives should drop to 1.

    • Roger Farr
      February 8, 2017 (11:00 am)


      Thanks for your comment.

      All beekeepers are encouraged to register their presence and the location of their apiaries with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service. This is to their benefit for exactly the reason you listed in your comment.

      As for not requiring registration for beekeepers with less than 25 hives, this is a balancing act. The TAIS is charged with protecting the beekeeping industry in Texas which usually means they are concerned about diseases, pests, and unwanted species of bees. The group of beekeepers that drafted the legislation made the determination that those with less than 25 hives would have a negative impact of Texas beekeeping far below that of beekeepers with a greater number of hives. There was also a consideration on TAIS’ part on not unduly increasing the work or time required to implement the legislation so as to not unduly increase costs and thus fees.

      Best regards,
      Roger Farr
      TBA Area Director

  • Lance H
    February 9, 2017 (4:23 pm)

    What is the timeline on when HB 1293 will become law? Thanks for the informative blog!

    • Roger Farr
      February 13, 2017 (4:50 pm)


      There are still quite a few hurdles to clear before HB 1293 is ready for Governor Abbot’s signature. First HB 1293 must be heard in the House Agriculture Committee and then voted on by the House. Next, HB 1293 must be heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee and then voted on by the Senate. If the Senate makes any changes those must go back to the House for another vote on the reconciled bill.

      When HB 1293 clears these hurdles and it is signed by Governor Abbot most of the law will come into effect on September 1, 2017 with some provisions effective on September 1, 2018.

      Thanks for your kind comments.

      Roger Farr
      TBA Area Director

  • Justin B.
    February 11, 2017 (4:30 pm)

    I’m new to all this stuff and most definitely NOT a lawyer. However, I was reading the HR 1293 for changes about beekeeping and this raised an eyebrow…

    2017 Texas House Bill 1293 for changes to ag131 (beekeeper rules)
    First page where “Apiary” is defined…
    Section 1.2 Line 10
    The old definition for “Apiary” had “[six or more]” removed. So now any hobbyist that has even 1 hive in their backyard has an “Apiary”

    http://www.libertycountybeekeepers.org/PDF/BeeLawAndRegulations.pdf (old rules document)
    Top of page 3
    “This is very clear wording, if you have 6 or more hives in one place, it is an apiary and that apiary equipment is required to be mark as per above: Name and address or the Brand (a Texas state assigned number.)”

    Sec. 131.061. IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED. A person may not operate an apiary in this state unless the apiary equipment is:
    (1) clearly and indelibly marked with the name and address of the person; or
    (2) branded in accordance with Section 131.064 of this code with a brand registered to the person by the chief apiary inspector.

    So if I’m reading all this right: anyone, not just hobbyist, will be required to register with the state, burn serial numbers on their hives, and possibly held to other rules that professional apiaries are held to.

    Am I misunderstanding this? Does this change to the definition of “Apiary” affect more than I am seeing here? And should we be alarmed? Or is it nothing?

    Justin B.

    • Roger Farr
      February 13, 2017 (4:58 pm)


      Thanks for taking the time to read HB 1293 and ask a great question.

      Yes, the definition of apiary would change under HB 1293 and not have a minimum colony requirement.

      Yes, the ways in which you can mark your hives or apiary would change for the better. First, if your apiary is at your principle residence, then you do NOT have to mark your hives or your apiary. If your apiary is not at your principle residence then you have several options. You may brand them as in the old law, attach a sign to each hive, or simply post a sign in the apiary with your name and contact information in letters at least 1 inch high.

      You will also want to register with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service as a beekeeper and give them the location of your apiaries, which they will keep as a trade secret. Then, when TAIS has information relevant to the beekeeping industry they can contact you directly. Marking your apiary could also assist others such as municipalities who may be conducting spraying operation for mosquitos to know the owner of an apiary.

      Thanks for your question.


      Roger Farr
      TBA Area Director

  • Kevin Hardwick
    March 1, 2017 (12:44 pm)

    I am a small hobbyist beekeeper – I currently have two hives, both located at my principal residence. I don’t raise queens for sale or have any plans to sell honey or wax or other products. My concern is with the vague regulations in this bill. I am part of a (hopefully) growing number of beekeepers trying to fight varroa without chemical intervention, but through using survivor queens who have been selected and bred for hygienic resistance. There are few commercial sources of queens that fit this model. I worry that the wording of this bill will allow the inspector to require quarantine of in-state colonies that have some varroa because the apiary is trying to develop resistant bees, or require miticide treatments that will only perpetuate the varroa problem. I also am concerned that I will not be allowed to order a single survivor queen from an out-of-state apiary that shares this vision, unless I obtain a permit to do so…

    • Roger Farr
      March 10, 2017 (10:59 am)


      Thanks for your introduction.

      Regarding treatment of your hives for varroa, that is your decision. Many individuals and queen breeders are developing varroa resistant bees through many methods, including breeding from survivor stock. We wish them all great success.

      Regarding quarantine of hives, the main issue is the spread of known or previously unknown pests or diseases of honey bees. Thus the “reportable” list in HB 1293. Today, the Chief Apiary Inspector is not concerned about varroa; we all have varroa in our hives. His concern is primarily the foulbrood diseases and a new parasitic mite, tropilaelaps.

      Also in HB 1293 is the ability to appeal a quarantine order to the AgriLife Director at Texas A&M, which is not contained in the existing law.

      Nothing new in HB 1293 would prohibit you from obtaining a single survivor queen from an out-of-state apiary.


      Roger Farr
      TBA Area Director