Pollination agreements

Hiring hives is the most common solution for obtaining managed hives needed for pollination. Hives are usually hired directly from beekeepers or from brokers working for beekeepers or growers. This approach has the advantage that the growers can specify exactly what they require.

It may take a beekeeper a long amount of time to prepare colonies suitable for pollination, especially if the pollination period is in early spring, or during a period when there is commonly a honey flow. In many cases, the preparation work by beekeepers to get their hives ready for effective pollination can take many months. Therefore, is it is critical that growers order hives from beekeepers early enough to ensure adequate supply.

When hiring honey bee colonies, many beekeepers and growers find it preferable to use a written pollination agreement that clearly specifies the responsibilities of both parties. Agreements, or contracts, are useful as there is no confusion over what the grower thinks they are hiring and what the beekeeper thinks they need to supply. They become very important if there are any problems with what is supplied or what happens to the hives once they are in the crop.

Geoff Manning

Hives of bees pollinating macadamia trees. Geoff Manning

Although pollination agreements can vary, some of the key aspects of a pollination agreement should specify:

  • names and addresses of the parties concerned and the date of the agreement
  • location of the crop
  • number of colonies hired
  • timing of delivery of the hives
  • strength of the colonies hired (number of frames of brood and bees)
  • distribution of hives throughout the crop
  • length of notice required before shifting hives in and out of the crop
  • rental fees and terms of payment
  • an arbitrator in the event of a dispute
  • permission and protocol for an independent audit of hive quality if required
  • action to be taken if an audit is failed
  • protection of hives from pesticide damage while in the crop
  • witness to the agreement.

Written pollination agreements protect all parties and eliminate misunderstandings between beekeepers and growers. Establishing a pollination contract is also considered best practice. Both beekeepers and growers will benefit from the adoption of best practice pollination services.

When establishing a pollination agreement you should always seek legal advice.

Additional information

For additional information, sample pollination agreements, fact sheets about making pollination agreements and what the important factors to consider are, click on the below links.  Please be aware that some of the below information was developed overseas and environmental, pest status and seasonal variations may occur. Always seek legal advice when establishing a pollination agreement.

Best practice in a honeybee pollination service, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Honey bee pollination continuity strategy, Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia

Pollination of crops in Australia and New Zealand, Dr Mark Goodwin

Australian Beekeeping Guide (2014) Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Publication No. 14/098


The above information is based on an excerpt from Mark Goodwin (2012) Pollination of Crops in Australia and New Zealand. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Publication No. 12/059