The Government is in the final stages of a review of beekeeping that should help to clarify what consitutes a beehive.
Simple hobbyist hives are becoming more popular but are criticised by traditionalists who say they help spread disease.
Basic top-bar hives are made from long wooden boxes and have bars at the top that bees form their honeycomb under.
The hives have been embraced by backyard beekeepers as a way of boosting declining bee numbers and promoting pollination in gardens.
But critics say they are hard to check for disease and do not fit within the law as currently worded.
Hobbyists disagree and say the design of the hives goes back hundreds of years.
The Ministry for Primary Industries acknowledges the law is unclear and needs updating.
It is in the fourth year of a review of beekeeping and hopes to send its recommendations to the minister in the next two months.