Beekeeper: Career Profile

Apiarists or better known as beekeepers are people who enjoy working with bees, managing and maintaining their colonies and producing honey and offering pollination services to others. It’s usually the professional beekeeper that offers pollination services along with producing and selling honey. For those of us who just consider beekeeping a hobby usually just produce the honey for ourselves or sell the honey produced by the bees to the locals in the area. However, if you would like to do it as a professional, you will need to make sure that you know what it takes to become a professional beekeeper.

The Duties of all Beekeepers Professional or the Hobbyist

  • Needs to make sure to keep hives healthy and productive in order to get good honey and other byproducts such as royal jelly (often used in facial lotions) and beeswax.
  • Responsible for assessing the hives health, checking for mites, monitoring as well as treating the hive when health issues do arise and then maintaining records of health, when medication was given along with the amount of honey produced from each hive.
  • They may also need to prepare both the bees and the equipment for pollination, feeding the bees, cleaning and even constructing the bee hives, especially if they are professional beekeepers.
  • They will also need to raise and replace the queen bees, divide bee colonies whenever needed as well as replacing or adding honey combs to the hive.
  • Process and bottle the honey.

A professional beekeeper will also need to work some pretty long hours during the warmer months of the year and spend most of the time doing so outdoors whether it rains or shines. Some of the work required might even be during the night, weekends and even on holidays. Just depends upon how dedicated the beekeeper might be. As for hobbyists, they pretty much can do it at their leisure.

What Are the Career Options?

There are a variety things one can do as a beekeeper. They can keep it at a hobbyist level and just have a small personal operation that might be just for personal use or a little larger and sell honey at local fruit stands in the community for example. Or they can become part of a bigger commercial business in the production of honey. Professionals can also specialize in a certain area like just honey production or offering pollination services to those who farm vegetables and fruits, or they can even offer bee breeding.

Also, some beekeepers might choose to work with elementary school systems or even 4-H programs where they can teach kids all about beekeeping. There are often other opportunities in the educational field at the college level as well along with finding employment with animal science departments along with some university extensions.

If you are wondering where the bee industry is strongest you’ll discover that the strongest needs tend to be in the United States, Argentina, Turkey as well as China, so there are a variety of opportunities to work internationally if a beekeeper should decide to travel and work in a different country.

What Kind of Education is Required?

For those who just want to be a hobbyist at beekeeping there really isn’t any educational requirements to do so. However, new beekeeping enthusiasts can get valuable experience and education by apprenticing with other more experienced beekeepers before trying to do it on their own. Sometimes even bigger commercial bee farms might offer evening or weekend classes for beekeeping that are often open to the public.

You can also gain knowledge through a variety of beekeeping events that crop up all across the country. The biggest one would be the North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show that is put on every year by the American Beekeeping Federation. This event is held every year in January and there are usually around 600 experienced beekeepers at the conference providing the beginner with a lot of available information.

Even though a degree is not required to become a professional beekeeper there are a lot of colleges out there that do offer course seminars on beekeeping for the novice and master courses for the professional. Many professional beekeepers often do go to school for an undergraduate degree in either in animal science or some sort of biological field.

What Kind of Money Can Be Made as a Beekeeper?

As most jobs, salary will depend upon the beekeepers experience, their education and the kind of employment they are looking for. Either the hobbyist or a commercial or professional producer. According to a survey in 2011 the average salary for the professional is about $52,000 a year and for the part time beekeeper hobbyist they can average about $20,000 a year. More money can be earned if a beekeeper also markets the royal jelly and the beeswax along with their honey.

It appears that the number of professional beekeepers is going to grow over the next ten years mainly due to the fact that more and more beekeeper hobbyists are actually expected to enter the field as professionals or enlarge the size of their smaller operations and this is because more and more of the public is becoming more interested in purchasing fresh honey as well as other byproducts like the royal jelly and the wax that’s produced by the bees.

So if you enjoy being out in nature, are not afraid of bees, understand the importance of bees and what they do for our environment, you might want to look into at first becoming a beekeeper hobbyist and perhaps later on down the road becoming a professional beekeeper by getting further training and perhaps even a degree that will help you move onto larger jobs such as commercial honey farming or teaching others about the importance of bees and the products they produce for our enjoyment and health.

Being a beekeeper can be a lot of work, even as a hobbyist, however, from my own experience as a hobbyist, I’ve discovered that in spite of the hard work, it is a very rewarding hobby or profession. Not only are you helping bees thrive and produce something very healthy such as honey but in the end you are also helping the environment around you, an environment that depends highly upon the work of these little honey bees!

Lori