What is a Beekeeper?

Beekeepers are also known as honey farmers or apiarists. A Beekeeper is a person who keeps honey bees in hives or boxes. The bees are free to come and go.  Honey bees produce honey, beeswax and royal jelly, propolis (bee glue and bee antiseptic) and queen bees.

Beekeepers also use bees to provide pollination services to fruit and vegetable farmers. Many people keep bees as a hobby. Depending on the number of bee colonies (families) Beekeepers keep, they can become a commercial operator.

Queen breeders are specialist beekeepers who raise queen bees for other beekeepers.

Beekeepers’ tasks vary depending on the season.

In spring (breeding season) they:

  • checks the food supply, health and laying ability of the queen bee
  • checks beehives to prevent swarming
  • breeds replacement queen bees
  • provides a pollination service by renting hives to orchards and farms
  • collects the hives when the flowering period is over.

In summer they:

  • visits apiaries (also known as a bee yard) and place boxes on hives to prepare for honey production.

In autumn (harvest time) they:

  • shakes bees off combs or use a blower and collect the honey
  • extracts honey from the comb using machinery at the honey house
  • sends the honey away in drums for further processing into retail packs
  • stores empty boxes away until the next summer
  • may collect other bee products, such as pollen, propolis (an antibiotic gum or resin) and wax
  • may collect and package bees for export
  • feeds hives to ensure that they have sufficient food until spring.

Throughout the year they:

  • checks hives for diseases such as the varroa mite or American foulbrood (AFB)
  • inspects hives using hive tools and a smoker
  • builds and repairs hives, although they mostly do this in winter
  • divides colonies for replacement or increases in bee numbers
  • runs the business and keep records
  • repairs mechanical equipment 
  • may be involved in retailing, processing and packing honey.

What does a Beekeeper do?

  • builds, paints and makes beehives 
  • maintains hives and equipment
  • finds sites to put hives – talks to other property owners and government departments
  • transports hives to good pollen sites
  • takes honeycomb from the hive and spin the honey out
  • watches for bee diseases etc
  • packages and sells honey and other honey-products
  • breeds queen bees for sale
  • provides other farmers pollination services where required
  • cleans beeswax

Are you … ?

  • allergic to bee stings?  If YES, then beekeeping would not be recommended.
  • love bees?
  • interested in plants?
  • love the outdoors?
  • self motivated?
  • able to work alone in rural areas?
  • willing to work long, irregular hours?
  • able to lift heavy weights?
  • organised?
  • able to keep records?
  • travel long distances?
  • willing to be away from home for long periods at a time?

How do I become a Beekeeper?

Most Beekeepers take their hobby and grow it into a business.  They read and study information on their own.

Some join bee-keeping clubs to share information, ideas and even equipment.  Some local institutions and schools will offer evening classes or short courses in beekeeping.

Offers short courses:  

Subjects for school:  No subjects are compulsory but it would be recommended that you like biology and/or the sciences.  Maths Literacy would help if you are thinking of running your own business.


OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER: Floricultlurist … or … Animal Breeder

Is becoming a Beekeeper the right career choice for me?