Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for animal owners

Published: 2 Oct 2020
Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 - see all updates

Advice for pet owners and livestock keepers on looking after the health and welfare of their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for animal owners


As beekeepers, you should act responsibly and ensure that you continue good beekeeping practices, effective stock management and health checks whilst observing guidance on COVID-19.

You must follow the rules on physical distancing, gatherings and any other required measures in place in your area to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Read more about: Scotland’s protection levels.

General advice for beekeepers is as follows:

You should continue to work and care for your animals in the normal manner, as far as possible. You should not take measures that compromise the welfare of the animals in your care.

You should:

  • maintain good biosecurity at your apiary
  • do not share beekeeping equipment with other beekeepers, particularly hive tools and other handheld devices and protective clothing
  • wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and hot water before and after you come into contact with any animal. Use hand sanitiser if that’s all you have access to

There are currently no restrictions on the movements of bee colonies – for example, moving bees to fulfil pollination contracts. You should observe the guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when carrying out these activities, including the guidance on physical distancing and travel.

If you are required to visit premises other than your own, you should familiarise yourself with the guidance on infection prevention and control and take measures to minimise the risks from contaminated surfaces

You are required to self-isolate when:

  • you have symptoms of coronavirus and get tested
  • you have tested positive for coronavirus – this means you have coronavirus
  • you live with someone who has symptoms or tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
  • you're told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Protect
  • you have been abroad and told to quarantine on your return

If you are responsible for looking after bees, you should make alternative arrangements for their essential care if you, your family or your staff become ill or are unable to look after their welfare. If this is not possible, we would advise that you only attend to the basic needs and welfare of your bees where you can ensure you do not have contact with other people and you are able to follow all government advice on actions to minimise the risk of spread of COVID-19.

Local associations should consider how they can support those shielding, in isolation or otherwise unable to attend their bees at this difficult time for all of us.

Read more:

Bee inspections

If your bees are due an inspection by a government inspector, and you are in a high-risk group, or are in any of the categories requiring self-isolation, you must let your inspector know ahead of the inspection.

Arrangements will be made that will limit the chance of COVID-19 being spread. This may include the inspection proceeding without the beekeeper being present or delaying the inspection.

For all inspections, 2 metre distancing will be considered the minimum and so the beekeeper will not be able to stand at the hive side with the inspector while the inspection takes place.

Imports of bees are still permitted. There is no evidence to support restrictions to international movement or trade in bees, and the UK has no additional rules for bee imports with respect to COVID-19.

Report any suspicion of notifiable diseases or pests to the authorities in the usual way – please see the bee health page for further information.

Use husbandry techniques to minimise swarming. If you have to respond to collect a swarm, ensure that you adhere to the guidelines on distancing when collecting the swarm. If that is not possible, then the swarm should not be collected. Trying to prevent swarms is the best approach.

Similar arrangements are also in place in England and Wales – information can be found at: National Bee Unit - News.


First published: 2 Oct 2020 Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 -