Agreements for bee-keeping with property owners

25 April 2017

Globally, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for honey, with particular interest in the export market for mānuka honey and its medical benefits.  As a result, dedicating land to bee-keeping is becoming a more attractive option for property owners, particularly property owners with crops which could benefit from the pollination.

The risks to property owners

A number of property owners offer bee-keepers the use of part of their land for no cost, or for a portion of the honey produced.  However, given the potential liability issues faced by the property owner, the use of formal contracts setting out each party’s obligations and responsibilities is becoming more common.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 means property owners are responsible for ensuring “so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace, the means of entering and exiting the workplace, and anything arising from the workplace are without risks to the health and safety of any person”.[1]  In this way, property owners could be held liable if the bee-keeper or a person the bee-keeper brings on to the land with him or her sustains an injury on the property.

In addition, if the bee-keeper inadvertently leaves a gate open and the property owner has stock on the land, the stock could escape.  This becomes even more of an issue if the stock escape on to a road and then cause an accident.  Property owners need to ensure that they carefully review their insurance policies to see that they are covered for the loss of their stock in this way as well as any associated liability in the situation where they allowed a third party access to their property and it was that party’s actions that caused the loss.  While some bee-keepers may have insurance to protect themselves from this type of liability, it is not compulsory and property owners should ensure that they are covered by their insurance for a worst-case scenario.

Types of agreements which can be entered into with bee-keepers

The most basic type of agreement which can be entered into involves the bee-keepers paying a fixed price in return for the ability to place their hive(s) on the property.  This agreement can be attractive to farm owners who know little about the honey industry or are particularly risk-adverse.

By contrast, a riskier agreement would provide for payment solely based on a fixed proportion of the total earnings made by the bee-keeper from the particular hive(s).  This means that the property owner’s income from the hive(s) would depend on production levels, quality of surrounding pollen and the associated market-price just as the bee-keeper’s income does.

Finally, the agreement can fix the price paid to the property owner to the total production achieved and potentially include a base rate.  This is slightly less risky than the agreement referred to above as payment does not depend on the quality of the honey or the associated market price movements.

Regardless of the payment structure, it is important that property owners seek legal advice and ensure that the contract clearly deals with the obligations and responsibilities of both parties.  Minimisation of the non-payment risks for the property owner as well as certainty of access to the hives and the types of surrounding crops will likely be a priority in the negotiations.


Shelly Harrison

Shelly Harrison is a solicitor at Norris Ward McKinnon, specialising in business and rural property law. You can contact Shelly at [email protected] 

NWM 027


[1] Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 section 37(1)