Recently had an issue with a honeybee hive and a beekeeper said to me "It's illegal to kill honeybees". Not completely believing this at face value, I did a little digging.

My research seems to show that honeybees are protected against certain types of pesticide use. To me, the laws surrounding the bees seem primarily directed at farms/orchards and more "commercial" methods of eliminating bee populations, not private individuals. I am aware that I may be incorrect in that interpretation.

If an individual private home owner were to spray a honeybee hive, clearly on their property, with an EPA approved, over-the-counter, general, pesticide - one not specifically engineered for bee killing - what legal ramifications might there be, if any?

  • The bees native to north America are the bumble bees, they don't produce honey. The honey bees you find in na are of euroasain descent. They tend to take over and compete with bumblebee for pollen and depending on who you ask can be considered an invasive specie
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 15:06
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    I'm not sure about Oregon specifically, but honeybees are considered livestock in many states. They would need to be owned and worked by someone. IANAL but if you had a swarm in your garage (when a hive splits after a new queen is born) split off a commercial hive and you sprayed the swarm with approved pesticides as it tried to make a hive in your garage, you would not get in trouble. That being said, please follow the advice given and call someone to remove the bees instead of killing them!
    – L0j1k
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 15:06
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    @NeilMeyer: there are roughly 4000 species of bees which are native to North America. Here's a reference Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 22:24
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    @vsz you can use any pesticide labeled for bee-killing. I am told they exist. I would expect them to be sold pre-mixed in 6-ounce cans, and decidedly not 42-gallon drums of concentrate, because such products are appropriate for a garden shed and not appropriate for use 2000 gallons at a time (after dilution). Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 3:27
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    It's not an answer to this question since it doesn't exclude the possibility of other laws banning use of pesticides against honeybees, but I asked (and self-answered) a separate question to clarify the issue of whether 7 USC 136j prohibits this (short version: it doesn't.)
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 8:20

3 Answers 3


I believe you are correct. It doesn't seem illegal for a private individual to use a bee pesticide (following label instructions) to remove a beehive from property that you own. There are federal laws regarding the commercial use of pesticides which are regulated under the EPA (not the FDA). People are encouraged to report bees being killed to the EPA from commercial operations.

However, if you do have a problem with a honey bee nest on your property I would highly recommend that you contact the local beekeepers association first. Usually they can have somebody out the same day to remove and relocate the nest. Removing and relocating bees is actually not that hard (for a trained individual). Honey bees don't pose a risk unless somebody is allergic, and they are not aggressive.

My neighbor usually has four or five hives on his property, and we see the bees all the time. My kids enjoy watching them climb into flowers or buzz around the garden. They really are a natural resource that should at least be attempted to be preserved if at all possible.

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    Yes. I've since learned that calling, 911 actually, is the best course of action. Thanks! (Edited FDA/EPA)
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 18:31
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    @Scott There are bee police now? Or does 911 give you a choice of emergency services?
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 0:15
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    It's worth noting that you usually shouldn't call 911 for non-emergencies, you can call the police at a local number if you want to and not tie up emergency lines. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 1:15
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    ...actually although not an emergency, 911 can contact the correct response (bee keeper) in the case of honey bees. It's like calling 911 and they send out Animal Control basically. Yes, I thought 911 was odd as well, but it seems correct, at least where I'm located. This is a small area, not a major metropolitan city.. so that surely plays some role. I agree that not tying up 911 lines is a good course of action in large cities.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 7:02
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    On the subject of calling 911 for non-emergencies, it depends on the municipality. In San Diego for example, they want you to call 911 even for non-emergencies. I had to call the police for something really lame and reluctantly dialed 911 for my total non-emergency as instructed. The dispatcher was basically an operator.
    – L0j1k
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 15:13

I had a neighbor who was a licensed exterminator. We had bees move into our eaves and was talking to him about choices. He said a licensed exterminator isn't allowed to kill them but has to move them. A homeowner though can do anything they want.

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    "anything they want" doesn't include things which are otherwise illegal, such as irradiation, gun discharge in gun-control areas, or use of pesticides off-label. Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 22:06
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica LOL! The idea of irradiating or shooting bees to get rid of them is hilarious but honestly I'm sure somewhere out there is at least one person that needs this warning stated to them explicitly.
    – L0j1k
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 1:48
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica It turns out that federal law explicitly defines what it means to "use any registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling" and that definition expressly excludes the situation of using the pesticide against a pest not mentioned on the label unless the label expressly prohibits such use.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 2:27
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    @Harper-ReinstateUkraine: What would actually make it illegal to kill bees via irradiation?
    – Vikki
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 4:21
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    @Vicki probably possession of radioactive materials without a license. Commented May 23, 2022 at 5:48

Certified applicator here.

You can use pesticides labeled for killing bees. But that's all.

It is illegal to use pesticides contrary to their labeling.

Stop stop stop. Before you arch your back, go over and read this bountied, well-voted Skeptics answer from a 116k rated mod.

This type of labeling is present on every pesticide in Home Depot, Lowes, Farmer Exchange, or direct from Monstanto.

enter image description here Spectricide item pdf

Aside from Federal law and regs and state law, the label itself is a third body of law which you must follow.

Keep in mind, a legal mandate to obey product labeling and instructions is nothing new or unusual. If you install a proper UL-listed smart switch, you interact with a network of laws: State law invokes NEC 2017 as law. NEC 2017 says products must be approved by the AHJ; AHJs defer to UL (and other NRTLs). NEC also says it must be installed consistent with labeling, because those are the conditions in which UL tested and approved the device.

Note the "conditions in which tested" factor; that'll be a reason for what happens next.

The label allows, not forbids.

Take the example product above. The instructions plainly state that the product is listed for use with Wasps, Hornets, Yellow Jackets. They also list "other pests" which they enumerate as "Tent Caterpillars, Scorpions and Ants". Honeybees are not on the label.

Is this a permissive label? Everything not forbidden is allowed? Let's logick that out.

Uh oh: There is no "forbidden list". But notice each authorized pest has specific instructions on exactly how to attack that particular pest. There are no instructions on attacking spiders, for instance.

Now look at this certified-only herbicide, top of page 1: "For control of undesirable vegetation growing within specified aquatic sites, forestry sites, pasture/rangeland, and nonagricultural lands" - an example of being very un-specific, because in fact that is appropriate for that chemical (noting those weasel-words which call out more detail in the instructions). That tells you, Labels are as broad as possible. When they're specific, it's for a reason.

All of this makes it pretty clear that "inconsistent with its labeling" means any use not enumerated by the instructions/labeling.

Of course, as others are saying, honeybees are our friends. Actually, there's a serious crisis with pollinators, which are essential to our food supply. So you don't kill them, you get people to take them away and get them better work :)



FIFRA 7 USC 136j (a) (2) It shall be unlawful for any person --
(G) to use any registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling

7 USC 136.
(s) Person
The term “person” means any individual, partnership, association, corporation, or any organized group of persons whether incorporated or not.

40 CFR 170.9 Violations of this part.
(a) Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) (FIFRA) section 12(a)(2)(G) it is unlawful for any person “to use any registered pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” When this part is referenced on a label, users must comply with all of its requirements except those that are inconsistent with product-specific instructions on the labeling.
(b) A person who has a duty under this part, as referenced on the pesticide product label, and who fails to perform that duty, violates FIFRA section 12(a)(2)(G) and is subject to a civil penalty under section 14. A person who knowingly violates section 12(a)(2)(G) is subject to section 14 criminal sanctions..

That misconstrued exception

Now let's talk about an exception that people are trying to turn into more than it is. Let's imagine you're spraying your lawn with 2,4-D to suppress dandelions. Fair enough. Some eco-nut sees you spraying it, and sees a mole track in your yard. And reports you for using 2,4-D on moles, which is obviously not legal.

Now let's look at that exception. "except the term shall not inclde applying a pesticide against any target pest (the moles) not specified on the labeling (of 2,4-D) if the application is to the crop (lawn), animal, or site specified on the labeling (of the 2,4-D).

It is only, and precisely, about collateral damage to species you weren't trying to affect. However this only works if you are using the pesticide lawfully to treat something else.

It is a violation of Federal law to use a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. And that's all there is to it!

More labels

enter image description here Real Kill item pdf

enter image description here random-ass pre-diluted spray bottle of consumer 2,4-D (which never harmed a fly) item pdf

enter image description here Unregulated farmer-grade, full-strength 2,4-D which would only harm a fly because it's a strong acid at this concentration. item pdf

enter image description here Aresenal herbicide: you need a cert to buy pdf

Notice how, even though we're into the hard stuff at this point, the label wording has not changed at all.

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    Oregon law does not mandate "follow the label" for pesticides, it does so for restricted use pesticides which require a license.
    – user6726
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 16:50
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    You have to show that there is a federal regulation applicable to consumers. Something in CFR; something that does not refer to restricted pesticides, which require a license.
    – user6726
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 17:25
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    I kind of agree with @user6726 here. You have to prove the positive since it's never possible to prove a negative. All I read stated that pesticides "designed to kill bees" were illegal to use. And all the federal laws I read were clearly applicable to mass application, not individuals - much like prosecuting an individual for swatting and killing a honeybee on their arm would not be "in the spirit" of the laws. This equated to me tearing that tag off my mattress. Yes there are regulations, but they aren't applicable to an individual. They are or may be to a "certified applicator" though.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 19:30
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica I literally quoted the US Code. It says exactly that. The exemption is for if you're "applying against a target pest not specified on the labeling." It doesn't have anything to do with whether you're a pro or not. Using, for example, roach spray (or wasp spray, etc.) to kill a spider is expressly not illegal as long as you're using it in/on the "crop, animal, or site specified on the labeling." This is not to say that there's not possibly some other provision protecting bees, but this one doesn't apply.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 2:45
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    To be more specific, the meaning of the "if the application is to the crop, animal, or site specified on the labeling" is that you can't use a product that's intended to treat, say, tomato plants against aphids to treat your house (or anything other than tomato plants) against, say, spiders. Using a product labeled for use against roaches in your house against a spider in your house, however, does fall within the exception as long as the label doesn't specifically say not to do that, since you're applying it "to a site specified on the labeling."
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 5:27

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