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) park or reserve or Forestry Corporation NSW (FCNSW) forest, you may need to visit your bees during the bushfire season.

Before travelling to the site:

  • Check for fires in the area on the RFS website or ‘Fires Near me’ mobile app.
  • 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.
  • Follow RFS advice such as their advice on travelling in a bush fire area.
  • Check for Forest or Park closures. During a closure you will not normally be allowed to access your apiary site. Closures of FCNSW Forests are listed on the FCNSW website and on their Visit NSW State Forests Facebook page. Closures of NPWS parks and reserves are listed on the NPWS website.

Visiting National Parks or State Forests during a closure

During a closure if fires are located near your hives, call the Rural Fire Service to discuss safe access to your hives on 1800 NSW RFS (1800 679 737).

Forestry Corporation

If there is not a fire near your hives but you need access to remove your hives or to provide water during a Forestry Corporation Forest closure, contact your local Forestry office to request access. (Details are listed under “Contact us” on their website). NPWS does not permit any access during a park closure.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)

In times of a fire emergency, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will close some national parks and reserves, including tracks, trails, campgrounds and picnic areas. Park closures in all areas across NSW will be reviewed on a daily basis with additional closures implemented if conditions deteriorate. Parks will only reopen when considered safe.

  • Park Closure means the entire park cannot be accessed by anyone, including  commercial operators. A closure includes all tracks, trails, campgrounds and picnic  areas
  • A Closed Area means that specified sections of a park cannot be accessed by  anyone, including commercial operators.

Apiarists are not allowed to enter a Closed Park or Closed Area unless they have specific  permission from the relevant NPWS Area Manager (Contact details for your local office are on the NPWS website). This means apiarists cannot enter these areas to place or retrieve hives, or to put out water for bees.

  • Fire can move extremely fast through the landscape with new ignitions possible so  every precaution to protect people is necessary
  • Apiarists are encouraged to make and implement plans to remove hives early if there  is a risk of fire damage.
  • The NPWS and RFS may not be in a position to respond to requests for access during park closures (your request may be a low priority) and there may not be any capacity to respond or escort you out of a fire affected area
  • Parks can be closed at very short notice i.e. within hours when weather or fire behaviour changes unexpectedly or quickly
  • The risk of treefall is significant after a fire and all parks remain Closed following a fire until they are assessed as safe.