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Michigan Beekeeping Rules and Regulations

Starting and keeping bees in Michigan: Rules and Regulations

This article outlines the updated rules, regulations, and recommendations for keeping bees in Michigan for 2018. Please check regulations often, as many are updated every year.

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Inspections of Hives in Michigan

Transporting bees into Michigan

Beekeepers can bring bees across state lines into Michigan from any other state without any inspections or paperwork.  It is the beekeepers’ responsibility to ensure that the bees that they are purchasing or transporting are in good health and are free from disease.

Transporting bees out of Michigan

If you are moving bees from Michigan to another state, you may be required to have them inspected and request a health certificate to meet the requirements of the destination state.  State requirements are available by contacting the state apiarist for the destination state.  Links to state apiary requirements can be found at the Apiary Inspectors of America website. If you are not unloading bees in a state, but are just driving through, then you will be operating under DOT rules; most states only require health certificates for bees that are unloaded in that state.

The Michigan Apiary Law, Act 412 of 1976 provides for the suppression of serious diseases among bees; prescribes certain powers and duties of the director of the department of agriculture; and repeals certain acts and parts of acts. If you need or would like an inspection in Michigan, contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) at 1-800-292-3939, and ask for State Apiarist Michael Hansen.  Fees are charged for inspections as required by the Michigan Apiary Law.

Inspection for California Almonds

Honey bee shipments entering California are subject to two inspections: a cursory inspection at the border station and a more detailed inspection at the destination. You do not need a bee health certificate before you leave, but you can contact MDARD for a voluntary fire ant inspection.  This can be useful for beekeepers to get before they travel to California so that they do not have to sit unloaded at the border. To get a fire ant inspection, you will need the license plate information of the truck and trailer with the materials, and will have to give at least a week notice for the inspector to visit your location.  

The California Department of Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services maintains a useful website about Border protection stations and what to expect from inspections.

Registration of Hives in Michigan

Beekeepers can use the voluntary program Bee Check (run by FieldWatch, previously called DriftWatch) which is a voluntary program designed to alert pesticide applicators as to where their yards are located.  You can sign up for Bee Check through the DriftWatch Website.

Siting Regulations in Michigan

Michigan’s Apiary law does not limit locations for hive placement at the state level.  However, cities or townships may regulate colony numbers or prohibit beekeeping through a local ordinance.  Check with local government agencies for local ordinances that may restrict beekeeping. The state does provide guidelines for siting apiaries in the Beekeeping section of the Care of Farm Animals Generally Accepted Agriculture and Management Practices (GAAMPS) – discussed more below.

Zoning and tax classifications

Zoning is a tool used by many local units of government to regulate acceptable land use, including beekeeping and other agricultural operations. The zoning of your property may determine if you are able to keep bees on your property. To determine how your property is zoned, or to apply for a change in zoning, contact the zoning administrator for your municipality or county. 

Raising bees can be considered as an agricultural activity by some local standards, and your area may not allow for any agricultural activities, including beekeeping.

Keep in mind that zoning and tax classifications are different, even though they use the same groupings. Beekeeping may change your tax classification, but not your zoning.  Raising bees as a hobby (fewer than 25 colonies) would usually not result in being classified agricultural for tax purposes.  Sideliners (25-300 colonies) are generally a unit of other agricultural operations.  Commercial producers (300 or more colonies) may best be classified agricultural although the commercial storage, processing, distribution, marketing, or shipping portions of the operation are not agricultural.  To determine what classifies as Agricultural Classification, according to the tax commission, check the State of Michigan Classification of Property.

Michigan Right to Farm Act (RTFA)

On the state level, agricultural producers, including beekeepers, can get protection under the Michigan Right to Farm Act (RTFA).  To be covered under the RTFA, a farm must satisfy a three-part test:  It must (1) be a "farm" or "farm operation" that is producing a farm product; (2) be commercial in nature; and (3) conform to Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) – see next paragraph. If these three conditions are met, the state can provide protection to the beekeeper under the RTFA. In the case of a nuisance complaint, the state can provide the beekeeper with a letter, after an on-site inspection, that can be used as part of their defense.  Just because a beekeeper meets the requirements does not guarantee them freedom from nuisance lawsuits, ordinance and zoning requirements, or other restrictions. If you have questions, you can contact the Right to Farm Hotline at 877-632-1783.

Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPS)

The GAAMPS are voluntary practices to promote sound environmental stewardship and to help maintain a farmer's right to farm. In January 2009, beekeeping and apiary management were included for the first time under the Care of Animals GAAMPs.  This document is reviewed annually and updated by the Commission of Agriculture through a public hearing process when changes are necessary.  Current versions and proposed drafts can be accessed at MDARD’s website. Beekeepers do not have to comply with the GAAMPS - it is not a regulatory document - but failure to follow the regulations means that MDARD cannot provide support under RTFA if you are cited or sued. The Beekeeping and Apiary Management section of the GAAMPs provides recommendations regarding hive densities, distances apiaries should be set from property lines, hive placement within the apiary, ensuring a fresh water source to keep your bees out of your neighbor’s pool, controlling diseases in your colonies, transporting bees, etc. (and a lot of other good beekeeping information).  For further information or for a copy of the RTFA, you can contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Environmental Stewardship Division, 1-800-292-3939, or visit their website at

Labeling and Selling Honey

If you are selling your honey, you must have it appropriately labeled.  The Food and Dairy Division of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is responsible for assuring that food and other consumer packages are properly labeled. The Michigan Food Law of 2000, PA 92 of 2000, as amended, and the Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR) are the primary Michigan laws governing food labeling.  Labels for honey processed, produced, or sold in Michigan should follow the Michigan Food Labeling Guide. In 2018, the FDA released the Federal Food Labeling Guide for Proper labeling of honey and honey products.

Summary of the Basic Labeling Requirements

  1. Contents. The principal display panel (the portion that is most likely to be seen by the consumer at the time of purchase) must contain the product identity (Honey), and the quantity.   
    1. The term “honey” must be prominent, and of a reasonable type size. 
    2. It is not encouraged to use fanciful terms, or any description of your honey that could be confusing to the consumer.
  2. Address. You must have the name and address of the responsible party.  You have to have enough information to find your location, meaning that you need your street address (or at least the city if you can be found in a public directory).
  3. Quantity. The quantity must be on the principal display panel in the lower third of the panel in both metric and English units.

The guidelines above are for plain honey.  If you add other ingredients to your honey, then this will require additional labeling, including a complete list of ingredients.  There may be other processing requirements as well, so make sure you contact MDARD to make sure your products are in compliance. 

You do not have to have your label reviewed by the state before you sell your honey.  However, MDARD can review your label to make sure that they are compliant.  If you are interested in having MDARD review your label, follow the following instructions:

  1. Read the MDARD food labeling guide
  2. Submit all of the following:
    1. The label or a sketch of the label
    2. Specifications of the container’s dimensions
    3. The quantitative formula (recipe)

Labeling specialist, Food and Dairy Division

Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development

P.O. Box 30017

Lansing, MI 48909

Honey Processing Exemption Label

In Michigan, you do not have to extract your honey at an inspected facility if your gross sales for all operations are $15,001 or less (Food Law Act 92 of 2000, 289.4105).  However, you must indicate on your label that this is the case. The label would have to include the following statement printed in at least the equivalent of 11-point font size in a color that provides a clear contrast to the background:

 "Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.”

Federal Nutrition Labeling Requirements

All products sold in the United States are required to have a nutrition label in accordance to the FDA food labeling guide.  If you are a small business, and you file for a small business exemption, you do not have to have a nutrition label.  This exemption can be filled out online, and must be done annually.  The FDA definition of a small business is one that meets the following two criteria: 1) sells less than 100,000 units in the US each year, and 2) has less than 100 full time (or equivalent) employees.   You must have the nutrition label if you are making any nutritional or health claims, or have any other ingredients (oils, flavors, etc.).  In cases where you add other ingredients, you cannot file for an exemption.  If you have a nutritional label, you must follow the most recent requirements for these labels.

Added sugars. As of June 2018, the recent requirements included that honey must have an ‘added sugars’ declaration on the label.  FDA has been working with the honey producers on this language, as many producers feels that it makes pure honey appear to have additional sugars added to it or that the product is adulterated. The FDA released a draft guidance in February 2018, and followed by a period of open comment. After the comment period, they released a constituent update.  It is likely that this draft guidance will change in the near future, so make sure you check the most recent requirements often. For updates on the added sugars labeling you can email the FDA at Beekeepers are required to get a nutrition facts label after their sales exceed $15,001, and the added sugar portion only applies to honey packaged with nutrition fact labels.

Organic Honey

If you want to claim that your honey is organic, it must be certified. ‘Organic’ is a regulated term; if you are not certified organic, you must not make any organic claim on the principal display panel or use the USDA organic seal anywhere on the package. If you use the term ‘Organic’ or the seal, and you are not certified as organic, you can be fined.  If you are interested in becoming a certified organic operation, you will have to be certified by an accredited certifying agent. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) outlines the certification process and maintains lists of USDA-Authorized Organic Certifying Agents.  Agents can also be found through the NOP database of certified operations by searching “honey” in the “Certified Products” field.

Organic honey regulations are in transition, and the status is a bit confusing. While there are no federal organic honey guidelines, the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA has issued a written statement affirming that your beekeeping operation may be certified as organic.  A certifier can still determine that your operation can be organic by using guidelines for livestock and draft guidelines; certifying agents adapt the USDA organic regulations for the scope of livestock production (sections 205.236 – 205.240).  In addition, they refer to the recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board regarding organic honey production, which includes parameters specific to beekeeping, such as foraging areas, supplemental feed, and hive construction.  These recommendations have not yet been adopted by the National Organic Program, but there is a draft of a proposed rule that recommends the addition of apiculture-specific practice standards to the USDA organic regulations.  There is no timeline as to when or if this rule will be adopted. If you are interested in becoming certified organic, the best first step would be to contact a certifying agency.

The Michigan Organic Products Act (Public Act 316 of 2000) establishes an organic registration requirement for organic producers, handlers and certifying agents. It also prescribes fees associated with registration, development of a data system to track organic products produced by registered producers, development and implementation of organic production standards, and enforcement through investigation and sampling programs. This act does not specifically list honey, but anyone producing organic products, handling organic products or certifying organic operations in Michigan, needs to comply with Act 316 registration requirements. 

USDA Guide for Organic Livestock Producers

A Guide for Conventional Farmers Transitioning to Organic Certification


Honey processing requirements are covered in The Michigan Food Law of 2000 (Act 92).   This law is based on the Federal “Current Good Manufacturing Practices in Manufacturing, Packing or Holding Human Food” (21 CFR part 110). These federal regulations provide general guidelines for food handling, but are not specific to honey houses.  MDARD has written a set of guidelines specific to honey processing facilities, which can be seen in Appendix I.  If you follow these specific guidelines, you should also be in compliance with federal law.  In order to be in line with state regulations, if your gross sales are over $15,001, you need a license for your honey house- either a FLP (Limited Wholesale Food Processor for $25,000 or less in sales) or FFP (Wholesale Food Processor for business with over $25,000 in sales).  You will have to fill out an application for a Food Establishment License (the prices listed are current as of February 2016 – check with MDARD, as they may increase).   If you are interested in having your facility licensed, you should call MDARD, Food and Dairy Division (1-800-292-3939), and ask for your area food inspector (based on zip code / county).  MDARD offers a no-cost plan review service to beekeepers starting up a honey processing facility.   The plan review process can help prevent costly revisions by evaluating the proposed facility before construction begins.  This process also facilitates communication between the MDARD Inspector and the operator throughout the construction process.  For example, they can identify often-missed gaps in the plan such as an unsealed floor, improper sinks, or lights that aren’t sufficiently covered, so that you do not have to remodel or replace fixtures after they are installed. This review service, along with their step-by-step guide, and a plan review worksheet are useful tools for beekeepers before any construction or major remodel

Small operation exemptions

If your sales are over $15,001/year, you will be required to have your honey processed at a licensed facility.  If your operation is small, you do not need a licensed facility to extract honey.  Under the Michigan Food Law, honey retail outlets and processing facilities operated by the producer are exempt from licensure if gross sales are $15,001 or less (Food Law Act 92 of 2000, 289.4105).  Honey is not considered a cottage food, because the regulatory requirements and exemptions have some significant differences. Honey (and maple syrup), has its own set of licensing exemptions under the law. Here are some of the basic differences and similarities between honey regulations and those for cottage foods outlined on MDARD’s website.

Honey producers who meet licensing exemptions must follow the same labeling requirements for their honey as those outlined for cottage food products. (The label should read, "Processed in a facility not inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.")

Even if you don’t use a licensed facility, you still must meet all requirements of the Michigan Food Law (sanitation, building construct and design, employee hygiene, etc.).  Just because you don’t require a license does not mean that you can extract honey in unsanitary conditions. You are still expected to follow food safety guidelines, and MDARD can still visit a non-licensed facility if they are following up on a complaint, so make sure that your honey house follows the best food processing practices available (see Appendix I for guidelines).

Small scale honey producers can wholesale their products, including to grocery stores and other retailers who will then resell them, as long as they are labeled correctly. Honey producers are not limited to direct sales as cottage food products are.


Resources for beekeepers

Michigan Beekeepers Association
Michigan Beekeepers’ Association: (MBA) the oldest continually operating honey bee organization in the country, started in 1865. Their missions are to promote the honey bees to the general public, to help one another in maintaining healthy honey bees, and to encourage more research on honey bees. For information on bees and beekeeping in Michigan, or to contact your MBA district representative visit

Local Beekeeping Clubs
Many areas have local beekeeping clubs that provide education, meeting space, resources, mentoring, etc to area beekeepers.   Check the map at for updated contact information and to find a club near you.

University Extension


Bee Informed Partnership Tech Transfer Team

Michigan is host to a Tech Transfer Team (TTT), which is a program through the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP). Tech Transfer Teams are trained field agents who offer regular on-site hive inspections and sampling for commercial beekeepers and queen breeders.  The data that they collect help provide large-scale beekeepers with the knowledge to evaluate and improve management practices to maintain healthy colonies.  The teams conduct and demonstrate the importance of monitoring disease and parasite management while working with beekeepers in the field to collect samples, offer support, and analyze results.  Additional service including conducting longitudinal sampling on new feed or treatment options desired by the operation. More information on the program as well as access to all publically available results can be found at   If you are interested in working with a TTT, contact Dan Wyns (





Thank you to Mike Hansen, MDARD; Tom Tederington, MDARD; Kristen Esch, MDARD; Ken Settimo, MDARD; and Stacy Jones, USDA for their input on this document. 
Meghan Milbrath – Last updated 10/12/2018

Appendix I – Honey House regulations

These regulations should be used as a guide to set up your honey processing facility to meet food safety standards.  Contact Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for licensing information and updated standards.

Processing facility.  A honey house is any stationary or portable building, or any room or place within a building used for the purpose of extracting, processing and/or handling of honey.  It must be constructed in a sanitary manner, suitable to the operation, well maintained, in good repair and vermin proof.  During the processing of honey, this place is to be used only for operation or storage of equipment incidental to the activity.  (This room excludes the family kitchen.) The grounds adjacent to this building should be free from all litter, waste, refuse or anything that may constitute an attractant, breeding place or harborage for rodents, insects and other pests. 

Floors. Floors of all rooms in which honey is handled must be of impervious and easily cleaned material and must be smooth, in good repair and kept clean. Floors that have a drain should drain into an approved sewage disposal system.

Walls and Ceilings.   Walls and ceilings shall have washable surfaces, be clean, and kept in good repair.

Ventilated Openings. There shall be adequate ventilation and all ventilated openings shall be screened to exclude insects. It may be that honey bees enter the extracting facility, but efforts should be made to control entry and to eliminate bees once inside.

Lighting.  Permanently fixed light source shall be sufficient to permit efficient operations. All lights over the processing area shall have protective shielding or be shatter resistant.

Water Supply.  There shall be an adequate source of safe potable water under pressure in accordance with local sanitary codes. Water from a nonpublic source (private well) shall be tested at least once a year. Contact local health department about testing procedures and locations.

Approved septic systems - Water Disposal. MDARD does not approve septic systems but does require that the system be approved by the local health department.  Beekeepers starting up a facility should contact their local health department for information on the approval process.

Toilets. Toilet facilities, including hand-washing basins, shall be conveniently available to honey-house personnel.

Vector Control.  No chemicals or poisons shall be used to control insects or rodents while supers of honey are stored in the facility or extracting of honey is proceeding. Follow label instructions and use only approved pesticides.

Construction, Care, Use and Repair of Honey House, Containers and Equipment.   During operation, the honey house shall be used exclusively for extraction, processing, packing or other handling of honey and storage of equipment related to the activity of the honey house. Containers shall be free of internal rust, cleaned before use. Honey shall not be packed in containers which have previously contained pesticides, creosote, petroleum products, paint, toxic substances or anything that would react with honey. All equipment should be covered when not in use.  Extracting equipment shall have   hard surfaces that will not permit reaction of the acid in honey and should be lubricated only with food-grade grease.

Heating Equipment.  No boiler, oil stove or other heating equipment that gives off odor or dust may be used within the honey house, unless it is properly ventilated and complies with fire regulations.

Workers Sanitation. Workers shall maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and wear clean,   washable outer garments.  

Hand Washing Station. This area shall be conveniently located, easily accessible and supplied with tempered water, soap, single service disposable paper towels or an effective sanitary drying device.

Ware wash sinks/cleaning and sanitizing.  The Food Law of 2000 requires that all food-contact surfaces, including utensils and equipment, shall be cleaned as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food. The standard method of cleaning and sanitizing equipment and utensils is a three compartment sink.  In addition to the wash sinks, the facility needs to have at least one conveniently located hand washing sink. If using fresh hot water, sanitization equipment / utensil surface temperatures must reach at least 171˚F (77˚C).

Processing Equipment. Processing equipment shall be constructed of durable, smooth and easily cleanable materials, well maintained and stored to avoid contamination.

Bee Hive Equipment.  Extracting supers shall be clean and free of contamination. Medication is to be applied only when required following label directions. Supers should be covered, transported in clean vehicles and stored in a clean/sanitary area prior to extracting.

Extracting Honey.  Uncapping should be done under sanitary conditions.   Extracted honey should be covered if the process is not continuous. Each lot is processed separately and a sample of each lot shall be retained   with   proper label identification.

Straining of honey shall be done with a clean mesh –cloth material or stainless steel mesh. Reuse of cloth mesh is not advisable. If honey is filtered, the filters should be checked for damage to ensure they are clean and free from extraneous material.

Packaging Honey (Bottling) and Labeling Requirements. The processing of honey for bottling shall be done in a clean/sanitary devoted facility. Retail and wholesale honey containers should be labeled with: product identity, ingredients if any are added, a production or lot code, name, address of manufacturer, packer or distributor, and net weight.

Cooperative Honey Houses (Central Kitchens).  As a cooperative honey house, multiple processors can use the licensed facility. The processors that use the facility are not required to obtain a license. Accurate records of members using the facility will be kept. From time to time, MDARD will examine the production records to verify that honey found in commerce was actually produced at the cooperative.

Transport of Supers. Vehicles used to transport supers after removal must be clean. Supers must be covered during transport to prevent environmental contamination. Storage of supers must occur in a clean and sanitary environment.