What Is a Beekeeper?

a beekeeper brushing a honeycomb at his apiary

A beekeeper is an individual who takes care of honey bees and harvests honey, wax, and propolis from them.

As a beekeeper, you might also call yourself an apiarist since you are responsible for maintaining an apiary, where honey bees live. [1] The majority of beekeepers maintain their honey bees in hives, especially Langstroth-style hives. 

A beekeeper does not control the bees, but provides a safe environment for them to live. The bees produce honey, wax, and propolis that the beekeepers harvest. 

It is not the bees’ intention to give these things to the beekeeper, but rather that they produce these items as part of their daily activities, which are then carefully harvested by the beekeeper. 

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    What Does a Beekeeper Do?

    The profession of beekeeping involves providing a home for bees as well as harvesting honey and wax from beehives. Pollination services are also provided by beekeepers to local farmers, where the bees are rented to the farmers so that they can pollinate their crops. 

    In order to extract honey and wax from beehives, beekeepers use special equipment. Among these are honey extractors, wax knives, and other devices.

    A beekeeper uses these tools in order to produce products that can be sold, such as honey, beeswax bars, bee propolis, and pollen supplements. 

    Who First Started Beekeeping?

    There are cave paintings and carvings depicting beekeeping dating back approximately 9000 years. [2] North African beekeepers kept wild bees in pottery jars and harvested their honey for human consumption. 

    “Beekeepers” have domesticated bees for approximately 4,500 years, as depicted in Egyptian art. Even pharaohs’ tombs have been discovered with honey stored in jars. 

    It is documented in books and other linguistic sources that people in China also practiced beekeeping. 

    An Langstroth hive on a apartment balcony in an urban enviorment
    There has been a tremendous progress in beekeeping over the years, and with a larger urbanized population, urban beekeeping has become increasingly important.

    Ancient Mayans domesticated stingless bees belonging to the tribe meliponini. As a result of their high quality honey production, these bees are still kept for honey production today. 

    In the 18th century, European studies on bees led to the development of hives with removable combs that allowed honey to be extracted without destroying the colony. This was a major development in beekeeping. 

    Types of Beekeepers

    Beekeepers keep bees for a variety of reasons, including honey production, pollination, and hobby beekeeping, which just means keeping a few hives of bees for personal enjoyment. 

    In essence, there are many types of beekeepers, each of which serves a distinct purpose.

    Pollination Service Beekeepers

    In order to provide pollination services, beekeepers typically rent their bees to nearby farmers to pollinate crops.

    Pollinators such as bees play an important role in the reproduction of plants because they effectively transfer pollen between male and female plants. As well as promoting the growth of new plants, this is essential to the health of existing plants as well. 

    Beekeepers provide pollination services to farmers by renting bees so that the bees can live on a designated area of land and pollinate crops owned by the farmer. 

    Bees may be transported over long distances to be delivered to farmers, which may be stressful for them. Pollination service beekeeping can, however, be beneficial for both bees and farmers when done correctly. 

    Queen Breeders

    A queen breeder beekeeper specializes in breeding queens for the purpose of selling them to other beekeepers. 

    Queen breeder beekeeping is important work since queen bees must be replaced over time as they age or become ill. 

    Commodity Beekeepers

    The most common type of beekeeper is a commodity beekeeper, who is focused on producing commodities for sale, such as honey or wax. 

    A commodity beekeeper harvests honey, wax, propolis, and pollen from beehives for the purpose of selling them. A commodity beekeeper can manage a small apiary or a large commercial apiary. 

    Hobby Beekeepers

    Hobby beekeepers keep bees primarily for enjoyment or to pollinate their gardens. 

    In general, hobby beekeepers do not harvest much honey from their bees, if any at all. Most of the time, the bees are kept to facilitate the pollination of their yard and garden. 

    Commercial Beekeepers

    Almost all grocery store honey comes from commercial beekeepers. 

    Commercial beekeepers run large operations that generate large quantities of honey, wax, and propolis or pollen supplements. It is possible for these apiaries to have hundreds or thousands of colonies of honeybees and produce large quantities of honey. 

    Why Do People Keep Bees?

    There are many reasons why people keep bees, but the main reason is to harvest honey. Bees are also kept for the production of wax, pollen, and propolis. 

    It is common for people to keep bees as a hobby, as something to do, while others do so primarily for the purpose of harvesting honey. In addition, keeping bees is beneficial for the health of plants since bees pollinate them. 

    Is Beekeeping Hard Work?

    Keeping bees can be a challenging endeavor, but it is also very rewarding. Beekeeping plays a vital role in helping honey bees survive and continue to perform their important pollination tasks. It can be extremely rewarding for beekeepers to participate in an essential process in the ecosystem. 

    Beekeeping does require a considerable amount of time and effort. Beekeepers must perform regular hive checks, administer mite treatments, and extract honey. 

    In some cases, being a beekeeper can be a full-time job, depending on how many hives one keeps and what products they intend to extract. 

    Wax and propolis are more labor-intensive to collect than honey, since bees produce them in smaller amounts and it is more difficult to collect them from the hive. 

    It is often worthwhile to collect these substances from beehives, however, as propolis, pollen, and even beeswax are highly sought after and can command high prices. 

    How to Become a Beekeeper?

    Become a beekeeper begins with having access to the land and plants necessary to sustain bees. 

    A city environment is significantly more challenging for beekeeping because fewer plants are available for the bees to feed on, but there are many successful urban beekeeping initiatives that contribute to local ecosystems. 

    Having secured the land necessary for beekeeping, the next step is to purchase hives and equipment such as honey extractors and honey supers.

    It is important to understand the startup costs of beekeeping before entering the field, as this equipment can be quite costly. The Langstroth hive is the easiest and most straightforward hive for beekeepers to maintain since it allows individual frames to be removed for honey extraction.

    As soon as the land and equipment necessary for beekeeping have been acquired, the final step to becoming a beekeeper is to purchase the bees. 

    Beginner beekeepers should consider purchasing a nucleus colony since it can be purchased fairly cheaply. A nucleus colony includes bees at all stages of development, as well as a laying queen. [3]

    Purchasing a nucleus colony is easier than purchasing packaged bees and a separate queen, since a nucleus colony already exists as a colony and is a laying colony. 

    a beekeeper using a smoker to calm the bees
    Beekeepers are always at risk of being stung, but smoke can reduce that risk when working directly on the hive.

    In the case of purchasing package bees and a separate queen, the beekeeper will have to introduce the queen to the worker bees, which can be somewhat challenging for a beginner. 

    Finally, being a beekeeper requires considerable maintenance. Regular inspection of bees for mites and other parasites is critical for beekeepers, as well as the treatment of mites during the spring and fall months. Beekeepers must also devote considerable time and effort to extracting honey. 

    As part of running a beekeeping business, there are also marketing requirements. As a hobbyist, beekeepers do not need to worry about this. However, if they wish to make money from their beekeeping, they will have to market and sell their products carefully to maximize their profits. 

    Is Beekeeping Profitable?

    When beekeeping is conducted properly, it can be a profitable endeavor. It is possible to make a significant profit from beekeeping with good marketing and high-quality products. 

    By performing most of the apiary’s work, a beekeeping business can reduce its labor costs and remain profitable. 

    Beekeeping businesses can also generate higher incomes through good marketing of various products produced by the bees.

    It is important to emphasize the quality of the products made by the bees, and sell them in a variety of locations, including online, in order to maintain a profitable beekeeping business. 

    You should take advantage of the online market for honey, wax, propolis, and pollen as a source of income, since it is possible for anyone in the world to purchase your products. 

    Why Do Beekeepers Use Smoke?

    As a means of calming bees, beekeepers use smoke so that they do not become aggressive and sting them. 

    In order to avoid agitating the bees and causing them to sting, smoke is used during hive inspections and honey extraction. 

    Do Beekeepers Get Stung?

    Occasionally, beekeepers are stung, but most wear protective clothing to avoid being stung by the bees. 

    As a precaution against bee stings, beekeepers wear special beekeeping suits made of sturdy cloth. A beekeeping suit includes hats, veils, and gloves to protect the parts of the body that might be vulnerable to bee stings. 

    There is, however, always a possibility that a beekeeper may be stung. It is probably not a good idea for someone who is allergic to bees to become a beekeeper, as stings are always a risk. 

    Is Beekeeping Ethical?

    The practice of beekeeping can be ethical if it is conducted properly. Honey bees benefit from beekeepers because they provide food and a safe environment for them. 

    In order for honey bees to continue to thrive, beekeepers must take good care of their bees and ensure that they are provided with all the care they need.

    It may become an ethical issue if a beekeeper takes too much honey from their hives. The reason for this is that bees require a certain amount of honey to survive winter, and if a beekeeper removes too much honey from the bees, they may not be able to survive the season.

    Honey should only be harvested when it is in excess, usually in the spring or early summer. During the fall, it is important to leave a large quantity of honey in the hive for the bees to consume during the winter. 

    There are also unethical practices associated with beekeeping, including clipping the queen’s wings to prevent flying. It is unethical because it disrupts the natural process of swarming and the expansion of the honey bee population. 

    The most ethical form of beekeeping is to provide a home for the bees without interfering with their natural processes. It is possible, however, to harvest honey from bees ethically without harming them. 

    When bees are well cared for and are provided with sufficient honey to survive winter, it is ethical to keep bees for honey production. [4]


    [1] Wikipedia [2] Wikipedia [3] canr.udel.edu [4] The Beet

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