Maryland’s Laws for Raising Honey Bees

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

By Nicole Cook

Image is of a honeycomb with bee larvae.  Image by Nicole Cook.
Image is of a honeycomb with bee larvae. Image by Nicole Cook.

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It’s that time of year when we start to think about all the joys of spring: warm rains, flowers blooming, and—if you’re thinking about raising honey bees—shopping for your “nuc!” Honey bees are vital to the health of Maryland’s agricultural industry, and many farmers also see the honey and beeswax as potential additional revenue sources. Because of their importance to agriculture, however, most states, including Maryland, have comprehensive laws aimed at maintaining honey bee health, which the state takes very seriously. In fact, violation of Maryland’s laws is a misdemeanor crime. So, before you buy your brood, make sure you understand what’s required under the law to keep honey bees in Maryland.

Maryland’s Department of Agriculture (MDA) is the agency responsible for approving the movement of honey bee colonies into Maryland. A person may not ship or transport into the state any colony or used bee equipment that is not accompanied by a valid inspection certificate issued by an authorized apiary inspector of the state of origin of the colony or equipment. Any colony or bee that is transported into the state without the required documentation will be restricted to an area that the MDA designates, and could be destroyed by MDA at the owner’s expense if not removed from the state within 24 hours after being notified by the Department.


Everyone who keeps honey bees must provide access for MDA to inspect each colony, and must register each colony with MDA within 30 days of receiving the colony, and then on or before January 1st every year thereafter. There is no fee to inspect or register a hive, but the registration certificate is not transferable. For a registration form, go to http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Pages/apiary_inspection.aspx.


During inspections, among other things, MDA will make sure that the honey house is clean and sanitary, the rooms are well ventilated, and there is sufficient lighting with protection over exposed food zones to protect from product adulteration. They will also look to make sure that there is an easily-accessible and adequate water supply for the honey processing room, and that when honey is extracted, the honey house is used only for the extracting, processing, packing, or handling of honey. In addition, openings to the outside in the extracting and packing rooms must be screened and kept in good repair. And, in each colony, a beekeeper must provide moveable frames, each of which can be removed from the colony without causing damage to the combs in the colony, and honey can only be extracted from capped combs with no bee brood or larva from a wax moth or small hive beetle.