German beekeeping laws are weird: an excerpt from "The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance"


This is a key plot point in John Barth’s “Ambrose His Mark”.

… unless they can get bees to wear little jerseys or something like that to show which team they’re on …

Now that’s just silly. All that fiddly knitting. Just brand 'em.


Protip for pursuers of bees: Eventually, they’re gonna stop to use the restroom at the nearest Bee Pee station.


Beekeeper 1: Well, sure is quiet in here today.
Beekeeper 2: Yes, a little too quiet, if you know what I mean.
Beekeeper 1: Hmm… I’m afraid I don’t.
Beekeeper 2: You see, bees usually make a lot of noise. No noise - suggests no bees!
Beekeeper 1: Oh, I understand now.

[a bee flies by]

Beekeeper 1: Oh look, there goes one now.
Beekeeper 2: To the Beemobile!
Beekeeper 1: You mean your Chevy?
Beekeeper 2: [pause] Yes.

The Simpsons


I’m failing to see the weird or nonsensical nature of these laws. There seems to be a good reason for pretty much all of them. For the others it looked like The Tradition said “Well, there’s a choice of not-so-good choices. Let’s go with one that seems consistent with our legal idea of what a bee swarm is.”

Legal disputes over these sorts of things go back many centuries. It’s not like it contains unsettled legal issues or ones that haven’t been argued thousands of times.


I think it’s “Überschwarm”, not “überSchwärm”.
And yeah. Bee ownership needs rules, too…

1 Like

Europe in the year 533:
“examen, quod ex alveo tuo evolaverit, eo usque tuum esse intellegitur, donec in conspectu tuo est nec difficilis eius persecutio est: alioquin occupantis fit”
(Corpus Iuris Civilis)

Texas in the year 1991:
“This case presents the question of whether a bee is like a cow.”
(Pizzitola v. Galveston County Central Appraisal District, 808 S.W. 2d 244 (Tex. App.-Houston[1st Dist.] 1991, no writ history).)

Acting like the first of men, are we?

1 Like

The interesting thing about this law is, that it allows the pursuing beekeeper to enter someone else’s property. Under other circumstances that would constitute trespass - punishable by up to a year prison sentence.

They all sounded like an eminently practical and well-thought-out approach to dealing with the uncooperative nature of a natural phenomenon, i.e. bees.
For comparison: Bee-keeping ordinances from Ontario (not that I have any particular brief for Canadian law, these were just the first to come back from the Great Gazoogle):

Right of owner to pursue and recover swarm

  1. (1) Subject to subsections (2), (3) and (4), where a swarm of bees leaves a hive, the owner of the swarm may enter upon the premises of any person and recover the swarm. R.S.O. 1990, c. B.6, s. 3 (1).

Where owner declines to pursue swarm

(2) Where the owner of a swarm of bees that leaves its hive declines to pursue it and another person takes up the pursuit, such other person is subrogated to all the rights of the owner in respect of the swarm. R.S.O. 1990, c. B.6, s. 3 (2).

Owner of premises to be notified

(3) Where the right to recover a swarm of bees is claimed under subsection (1) or (2), the person claiming the swarm shall notify the owner of the premises on which the swarm has settled before entering the premises and shall compensate the owner for any damage to the premises caused by the entry. R.S.O. 1990, c. B.6, s. 3 (3).

When right of property in swarm lost

(4) Where a swarm of bees leaves a hive and settles in an occupied hive owned by a person other than the owner of the swarm, the owner of the swarm loses all right of property in the swarm. R.S.O. 1990, c. B.6, s. 3 (4).

So to sum up, German laws are no weirder than Canadian ones.

1 Like

If a swarm of bees shows up on my property, I think I’ll be ok with the beekeeper chasing them.

1 Like

It’s worth noting that Germany is a civil law country, which means strange rules are more likely to be codified. In common law countries, strange rules are often buried in a long history of case law.


I thought so, too. It sure seems weird by American standards. I don’t mean to accuse you of ignorance of German laws–for all I know you are a German national–but it makes me wonder about European private property law, since it can be really different than what I’m used to in the US. Some of the Scandinavian countries and I think the UK have laws that say all citizens are free to walk across all land as long as you don’t get too close to a home, i.e. you can wander all you want across farmland. Never heard one way or the other about Germany but this beekeeping law seems to contain that idea as a given.

@retepslluerb, can you straighten me out here?

considerng that honey was quite valuable not so long ago, it makes sense that there are laws for protecting your “investment”.


In Germany you are generally free to walk across unfenced farmland etc., too. However the bee law goes further than that. It covers all property, including people’s backyards.

ah, thanks. :beers:

I do admire the freedom to roam laws. a much saner policy, IMO.

1 Like

“Trespassing” in Germany refers to homes, offices and open spaces protected by a wall, i.e. anything you have to enter through a door or gate.

So you can’t trespass across farmland by walking over it. However, you are responsible for damages, like when you trample seedlings or fruit.


i’ve noticed that too. and wondered about the law/tradition that seems to allow germans to hike through peoples farms, down any dirt road, and swim in whatever lake you happen upon, in ways that you would never do in the US without getting fired upon.

Actually the German beekeeping laws have been completely useless so far. There is no court decision citing them, so they are literally the least important part of German civil law. For some reason German beekeepers have managed to avoid going to court for the 114 years this has been codified in the German Civil Code.

The lack of court decisions just means that everyone obeys them. See, not useless at all!