Yesterday I walked up to our ruin, without suspecting anything, when my eye caught a small brown moving ball on an old vine. Wow, a bunch of bees! A little swarm had landed unnoticed in our garden.

How nice! But where did we put all our bee stuff? In the Netherlands we had kept bees for a few years and we thought it would be nice to start again in Portugal. And now, this swarm just presented itself.
Like you would with an unexpected visitor, we dropped everything and dived into the storage. Fortunately, the bees stayed until we found everything. And even better: the swarm was easy to approach and we could, hoppa, shake it immediately into a nuc box. That saved another transfer from basket to the wooden hive later that night.

What next? How do you keep bees in Portugal? What are the regulations and customs? Might this swarm be from the neighbor and should we check that first? If so, he may have the swarm back. But what are the Portuguese beekeeper words, so we can ask?

Portuguese words for a beekeeper

a swarmum enxame
catch a swarmcapturar um enxame
beekeepingapicultura/ criar abelhas
wooden hivecolmeia
nuc boxcolmeia núcleo
beehivecolônia de abelhas

By coincidence, Nuno saw the neighbor in question passing with a hive. And he succeeded, with some improvisation and gestures, to explain we had caught a swarm. The neighbor granted us the happiness, because he himself was without any bees. He as well had his hopes up for a swarm.

After we had caught the swarm we had to choose a permanent location for the hive. During which all the beekeeper facts slowly came into our minds again. And for me especially, memories of making a documentary in 2012, about three different beekeepers in the Netherlands.
A handful of bees.

It made us realize that beekeeping doesn’t bring only joy. The bees, and all insects actually, are having a hard time. In the past 30 years, the overall insect population has been reduced by 75%! The natural balance within ecosystems has been disrupted. You also see that with the bees; their resistance is low. They are attacked by exotic parasites and robbers, such as the varroa mite and here in Portugal by the Asian hornet.
So now we will care for this hive, we will have to do some research again. Learn how to keep bees here in Portugal, how we protect our bees best against local threats and diseases.
Fortunately, we had already chosen bee-friendly trees for our garden (fruit trees, berry bushes, maple, linden). The bees must have seen that before they swarmed here!

At my first research on the internet, I came across this website of the Portuguese Ministry of agriculture, region North, a manual for the beekeeper. Manual apicultor

Read more about our experiences with beekeeping in Portugal

Some more Portuguese beekeeper words

work beesas abelhas operárias
dronesos zangões
bee feederalimentador
brood framescaixilho de cria
brood chamberninho de criação
honey chambermelgueira

May 3, 2019



  1. Hi, my name is Jaswant. I come from India, but now I’m living in Portugal. I want a job on a Bee farm. I was a bee keeper in India from 2013 to 2018. I have good experience. So can you provide me a job?

    1. Bom dia Jaswant,

      Thank you for your message on our blog.
      We don’t have any vacancies for a beekeeper, simply because we don’t have a professional bee farm.

      Maybe the Portuguese association for beekeepers can provide you with addresses of professional bee farms in your area.

      Boa sorte!
      As Rolhas

  2. Hi I am a beekeeper in Australia. I am visiting the Portugal/Spain border (specifically I’ll be on the River Guardiana in July or August this year). Are you anywhere near there? I would love to connect with you – or some other beekeepers along this river. Can you help me? Thank you.

    1. Hello Marita, unfortunately we’re up in the North of Portugal.
      I had a look for you on internet, there is a beekeepers association in Mertola, called Apiguadiana. Maybe you can contact them when you are there. They’re in a national park, so to me, it seems worth a visit anyhow 😉

  3. Hi guys. I’m Portuguese and I live in the Northern part of the country and I’m considering to start beekeeping in a near future. I used to watch my grandfather working with his hives and I always kept this in a to do list for the future for myself 😁 I will be following you guys for guidance.

    1. That’s great Filipe. Hope the beekeeping is in your blood 😉
      You will enjoy it!

  4. Hi,
    Reading the regulations, it says no hives within 100m of a road or building (except rural paths or beekeeping buildings).

    Is this rule ever applied? I would guess most people don’t have land 100m from a road or building. I have half a hectare in central Portugal and no part is more than 40 metres from a country road.

    And (sorry to add an unconnected question), could you let me know the technical Portuguese names for nucleus vs package of bees to start a hive. I’m trying to buy two packages (boxed frames, queen and combs) to start hives but don’t know how to make the distinction.

    Thanks for the website, It’s been a really useful resource for me,

    1. Thanks, John for your kind words and reply.

      100 m rule is probably only applied when the bees are giving troubles.
      When we registered our bees, the bee advisor of our region didn’t disapprove of it.

      Nucleus is um nucleo, and we call those ‘6-frame-boxes’ in The Netherlands.
      And i am not sure what you mean by ‘package’. But I think you mean those little styrofoam boxes, right? I’ve never seen anything like that here. I imagine that only purebred beekeepers work with those (In the Netherlands it’s like that)
      I see adverts here in which they call it ‘enxame’ (swarm) with the number of ‘quadros’ (frames) sometimes with ‘crianção’ (brood).
      Or they call it ‘colmeia’ (hive) with 10 ‘quadros’ or ‘unidades’ (both referring to frames)

      I hope this helps.
      Good luck and happy beekeeping!

      1. Thank you for the fast reply.
        I think what I’m looking for is the brood in frames (quadros). I did a beekeeping course in the UK and lots of internet searching gives me USA information. It’s difficult trying to see which terms are equivalent across three countries 🙂
        The USA seems to call a box of frames with workers, cells and a queen, a package. From what you say it sounds like that’s the usual way to buy bees to set up a new hive. Haven’t seen styrofoam boxes in my searches yet.
        Thank you so much for your help.
        Off to order my quadros com criancao,

  5. Bom dia
    My friend and I are planning in future to move to Portugal and start a farm growing 4 crops including honey production .Can you help us?Obrigado.Michael

    1. Hello Michael. From experience, I can say it’s a great idea to move to Portugal.
      Feel free to send us a pm if you have specific questions. Good luck!

    2. Hello Michael i have some land and a house and am considering partnering. If that could be of interest to you maybe we could talk

  6. My daughter lives in Azenhas do Mar , near Sintra and recently had a swarm take up residence in her wormery composter. I said I would buy a hive, maybe a Flow hive as I have those Here in Hope Cove, Devon and they can be delivered. What Style hive is usual in Portugal?

    1. Hello Sue, thanks for your message.
      Flow hives aren’t common in Portugal. This is a link to one of the biggest beekeepers shops, you can see which hives are most usual here.
      (I didn’t know those flow hives either, looks interesting. Thanks to point me to it!)

    2. Dear Sue Morgan,

      Does the weather in Sintra allows for worm composting to thrive all year round?
      Is your daughter doing comercial worm composting?

      Thank you,

  7. We have moved to the village of Azeitao in Portugal 20 miles south of Lisbon and would like to have a bee hive
    Do you know of any beekeepers in this area?
    We would like to have a hive in the Arrábida if possible ?
    Thank you

  8. Hi there, I have just moved to Portugal and would love to have bees on my roof(if allowed)

    If you have any tips or contacts that would be great I am in the Algarve region.

    Really want to help these amazing insects for the future.

    1. Hi Lee,
      No rooftop beekeeping in Portugal, as far as I know. The regs don’t permit to place a beehive within 30m or so of habituated areas. (even 15m for the beekeeper’s house)
      But, once you’re settled you can always help bees and other insects by not spraying acid, capture Asian hornets and plant blossoming trees.
      On facebook you can find some English groups about beekeeping in Algarve/Portugal. I.e.

  9. My son-in-law wants to start beekeeping in Tavira, Algavre region and would like a course on Beekeeping there.
    Could you please send me contacts for this.
    Thanking you in anticipation.
    Terry Reed

  10. Hallo,
    Mijn naam is hanneke, ik studeer in Lisbon universiteit en Ben imker. Graag wil Ik in het noorden een stukje land met boerderij zoeken, om sustainable beekeeping op te zetten. Misschien kan ik jullie ontmoeten?

  11. I am in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Can beekeeping in Portugal lead to a profitable business? I am now retired but would love to start a family business in Portugal and would love to have beekeeping as a business.

    1. Hi Chuck, Thank you for your response on our blog.
      I wouldn’t know if beekeeping as a business will be profitable. For us, it is just a hobby.
      Good luck with your plans though

  12. Hi there, what an amazing find, I am in the process of relocating from the uk to Portimão region – Thankyou so much for your inspiring & interesting site, I should have been asleep hours ago! I would love to introduce bees to our land hère & ask if you have any guidance for where I start with training in particular, if possible in Portugal for organic honey beekeeping please?
    Kindest wishes

  13. Hi,

    I am from Azerbaijan, and I live in Porto. I have beekeeper friends in Azerbaijan and want to buy a queen bee from Portugal. Do you know where can I buy it to send to Azerbaijan? Any recommendation?


    1. No, I don’t and from a biological beekeeping point of view, this sounds like a very bad idea.

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