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What you need to know - Bees and Apiaries

What you need to know - Bees and Apiaries

Agricultural classification is addressed in F.S. 193.461. Additionally there is some specific guidance on bees etc. located in F.S. 586 and F.A.C. 5B-54 In developing this guide our office has consulted with and received input from a number of sources: local beekeepers, beekeeping associations, state agencies and universities. This guide is meant to assist you in applying and qualifying for an agricultural classification for bees and apiaries. Please be advised that the granting of or denial of any agricultural classification is at the discretion of agricultural staff and management after taking into consideration all facts and information presented to our office. If you have specific questions, please contact our office at 941-861-8200 and speak with our Agricultural Department representative.

General Information

The process commences when an owner completes the Application and Return for Agricultural Classification of Lands (Form DR-482). Applications are available on-line from the Florida Department of Revenue or you can request one from our office. The application is due in our office by March 1, however, real property is classified as agricultural or non-agricultural as of January 1st of each year. This means that the information on the application and any additional documentation must support and show that there was an agricultural use in existence on January 1. If the application and documentation does not show an agricultural use on January 1, your application must be denied. We cannot grant an agricultural classification simply based upon what you may do or are going to do in the future. This is extremely important. Many property owners get started too late and are disappointed when we cannot grant the classification.

Once we receive the application, we will review the information provided. We’ll do in office research, review aerials, schedule a first site visit (required), speak with the owner, take pictures, and make a determination on or before June 30. Denial notifications are mailed by July 1.

General Information for Bee and Apiary Classified Use

For the purposes of agricultural classification for bees on real property, the owner of the commercial operation must show that the land is being used to raise or keep bees for pollination or for the production of human food or other tangible products having a commercial value. The commercial bee operation should clearly define the apiary endeavor (i.e., honey production, bee foraging, raising queens, pollination, etc.). The property for which agricultural classification is requested should be able to support the bee operation on its own. The use of the land must clearly indicate a bona fide commercial endeavor. Throughout the process, the burden is on the property owner to furnish all information showing how the bees and the use of land constitute a bona fide commercial agricultural enterprise.

Requirements for the Bee and Apiary Classified Use

Application. A completed DR-482 and submission of a valid state registration, certification and inspection certificates. Beekeepers must be registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. If inspections are required for the operation, that documentation must be included with your application. The beekeeper’s state-issued certificate should be submitted to our office annually, showing the commercial operation is still functioning.

A lease. If the property is being leased, the lease must accompany the application. The terms of the lease must cover the assessment date (January 1) for the period for which the classification is requested. The lease must also clearly indicate the real property for which the classification is requested. The lease may cover multiple parcels of land as long as this office can clearly identify the parcel involved.

BCA/BMR. If a Beekeeper’s Compliance Agreement is required, a copy of that must be provided to our office at the time of applications. Please see Chapter 586, Florida Statutes / Rule 5B-54.0105, Florida Administrative Code.

Forage Identification. If foraging is a requirement and part of the commercial operation, the property owner must provide documentation identifying the source and location of bee foraging if not identified in the business plan or other submitted documents.

Bee Colonies. If colonies or hives are required for the commercial operation, the property owner must provide documentation identifying the number of colonies involved in the commercial operation. A minimum of six (6) colonies is required to be considered for the classification (having fewer than 6 colonies is typically considered a hobby and hobbyists are not considered bona fide commercial agricultural operations). Additionally, the property owner must provide the location of the colonies if the colonies are not located on the subject parcel on January 1. The documentation should indicate when the bees are expected to be located on the subject parcel and the justification for the bees not being on the parcel on January 1.

Site Visit. Please be sure that your contact information is up to date on your application. A site visit with the owner, representative, beekeeper, etc. must be conducted by our office for all new applications. This is a chance for you to meet us and for us to be introduced to your operation.

Additional and Supporting Information

We are often asked what we are looking for in information and documentation. Normally, if it is not self-explanatory (e.g., IRS Schedule F) we are unable to advise you as to what you should specifically provide. We are unable to take responsibility legally for telling you what you should or shouldn’t provide to us. Instead, we encourage you to provide any information that makes it easier for us to understand your business and grant the classification.

The following is a brief list of some of the information that will help us with the classified use determination. This is not a required list nor a complete list. When provided, we have found much of the information below helpful in allowing us to understand your operation and how it qualifies for the requested classification.

Photographs. Dated photographs normally provide clear evidence as to what is or is not on a parcel at the time of the photograph. Photographs near the assessment date (January 1) are especially useful. We will also take photographs during our site visit, but you must not rely upon us for documentation. We have also received videos of operations. These also can be helpful in clarifying the operation for us.

Business plan. The bee operation’s business plan may accompany an application and must clearly define the apiary endeavor being conducted on the property for which agricultural classification is being requested.

Insurance Policies. We believe insurance is to manage risk. Having insurance is sometimes a requirement and sometimes a choice for the business owner. Evidence of insurance is a good indicator that you have something to lose and further helps us in our classification determination.

Invoices, Inventory lists, bills of lading etc. For us, these items document the transactions and assets of the business and assist us in verifying bona fide operations.

Best Management Practices (BMP). A BMP may be provided to support the classification request.

Financial. IRS Schedule “F” (Income or Loss from Farming) for the most recent year of operation may be submitted. Some property owners go above and beyond with IRS forms. We will not encourage you or discourage you from providing us with more or less.

Additional Forage Review. For honey production operations there must be a flower bearing nectar source either planted specifically for honey production or naturally growing on the acreage applied for. The online map provided by the FDACS also provides alternative bee forage areas derived from Florida Cooperative Land Cover Map, Version 2.3 (FNAI 2012). Habitat was selected based on habitat descriptions found in the Guide to the Natural Communities of Florida 2010 Edition. Major honeybee nectar plants (Sanford 2003) and their bloom period are listed below:


February - April


March - May

Ogeechee Tupelo*

April - May

Saw Palmetto

April - May

Cabbage Palm

June - July

Black Mangrove

June - July


August (variable)

Brazilian Peppers#

August - October

*North Florida Only
#Invasive exotic plant

Any information in support of the University of Florida IFAS Extension recommendations. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Beekeepers should develop and maintain one-on-one communications with citrus growers who have groves where they would like to place their bees.
  • Beekeepers should work with growers to reach written agreements providing permission to place hives in groves.
  • Beekeepers should inform growers of hive locations, status, concerns and be willing to remove hives promptly if the need arises.

Additional Information about the Process

During the “make a determination” phase many owners ask what we look for and how do we go about determining how much or how little to grant classified use to. To assist you with understanding how we will typically operate, below are some definitions and examples of terms. Typical colony size-forage acreage-parcel acreage combinations we have observed in Sarasota County will be posted separately as we anticipate those combinations will vary depending on the applications we receive and grant.

Operational Footprint and Acreage. The operational footprint is defined as the bee boxes and 25 feet around the bee box locations as well as any acreage identified as required for the commercial operation (this includes acreage for the “headquarters” - extraction house, equipment etc. used in the business). We use the operational footprint as the minimum starting point for determining the amount of acreage that may qualify for agricultural classification. We then factor in colonies, coverage, and the type of forage to expand the acreage that may qualify.

While there is not a minimum or maximum acreage that may qualify for the agricultural classification, the burden is on the property owner to establish that the acreage above the operational footprint is necessarily a component and integral to the agricultural operation. When appropriate we use the property size to colony ratios found on the Beekeeper Compliance Agreement to help guide us with our determination.

Additional and Multiple Uses. Queen Rearing/Hive Splits/Pollination/Staging will be based upon the operational footprint and require similar documentation to support the commercial operation.

When more than one use is indicated on the acreage, this office will work with the property owner to ensure that all uses are taken into consideration and the property is valued accordingly.

Multiple Properties. Beekeepers using the same colonies over multiple properties will not be automatically granted consideration on the additional properties. Each property will be reviewed on its own to ensure that it supports the bona fide commercial operation. This may require more extensive documentation including itemization, location and tracking of colonies as well as adequate foraging.

We appreciate you taking the time to read this guide and hope that it answers most of the questions and concerns you may have as you go through the agricultural classification process. We welcome an open dialogue and are here to assist you. If we’ve left anything out, please don’t hesitate to ask.