Beekeeping during bushfire periods

Use of Smokers in NSW

Beekeepers should use extreme caution when using a smoker at all times.  In times of a Total Fire Ban you should avoid the use of smokers except in emergency situations. Bee smokers are exempt from a Total Fire Ban only if they are used under very strict conditions including only lighting the smoker in a safe location. These are outlined in the NSW Rural Fire Service schedule of exemptions (See extract below from November 2019):

Bee hive smokers

Fire lit, maintained or used in connection with the management of bees and bee hives, provided that:

  • the fire is lit, maintained and used in a bee hive smoker that is commercially available, made of metal and designed to prevent the escape of fire, and
  • the fuel for the bee hive smoker is lit inside a building or vehicle by a responsible adult person and the smoker is sealed prior to leaving the building or vehicle and being taken to the hives, and
  • fire is not permitted to escape from the bee hive smoker, and
  • the bee hive smoker is under the supervision of a responsible adult person at all times while it is alight, and
  • the fuel for the bee hive smoker is totally extinguished inside a building or vehicle by the responsible adult person at the completion of use of the smoker.

In addition to these mandatory precautions, having water or a fire extinguisher close to hand is critical in case sparks escape from the smoker. Further advice on the safe use of smokers is available on the Professional Beekeepers community of practice website.

Visiting National Parks or State Forests

If you have a permit or license to keep bees on an apiary site in a National Parks NSW (NPWS) or Forestry Corporation NSW (FCNSW) forest you may need to visit your bees during the bushfire season.

Before travelling to the site:

  • Check fire danger ratings for the area on the RFS website. Consider these ratings carefully and whether your visit is essential considering the risks involved. In times of an Extreme or Catastrophic fire danger rating, forests are closed and should not be visited for the safety of you and of firefighting personnel.

If fires are located near your hives, call the Rural Fire Service to discuss safe access to your hives.