How to Become a Beekeeper

 

Before you dive into this career, you first need to determine if it's a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you might be well suited for this line of work:

 

Those who become beekeepers typically enjoy working with their hands and working outdoors. They enjoy variety in their work, in activities ranging from working with bees, to developing marketing materials. They also typically enjoy the prospect of self-employment.

 

Beekeepers must have thorough knowledge of the yearly cycle and habits of bees, and not be afraid of working with them, which involves enduring the occasional sting.

 

Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a beekeeper. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, income expectations, and much more!

 

 

Education Needed to Become a Beekeeper

Many beekeepers are self-taught or learn their skills on-the-job. Attending workshops, conferences, talking to active beekeepers, and taking correspondence courses are great ways to learn the skills necessary to become a beekeeper.

 

Although you typically do not need formal education to becoming a beekeeper, it can be helpful to complete coursework in areas such as agriculture, botany, biology, environmental engineering and horticulture. Pursuing coursework in these areas can help you acquire the necessary knowledge for becoming a beekeeper, such as:

 

• Knowing about different types of plants and the nutritional qualities of the pollen they produce

• Must be able to recognize various bee diseases and how best to treat them

• Knowledge of bee reproduction 

• Knowledge of the different grades and types of honey

• Knowledge regarding how to sell and market honey and bee hive by-products

 

 

 

 

General Job Description

Beekeepers, also known as apiarists, are responsible for ensuring the efficient production of honey and bee hive by-products, such as wax and pollen, by managing colonies of honey bees located within an apiary. Beekeepers also provide pollination services to horticultural and seed crop producers.

 

 

Typical Job Duties

• Maintain healthy bees for pollination and honey production

• Ensure bee colonies are prepared for production and wintering

• Ensure colonies have sufficient food reserves

• Inspect colonies to ensure there are no parasites or diseases present

• Identify, report and monitor hive health issues

• Collect and package honey, beeswax and pollen

• Maintain bee yard and all related equipment

• Maintain comprehensive records regarding the condition of the colony and associated production levels

• Ensure adherence to food safety and traceability guidelines and regulations when harvesting and processing honey and other hive products 

• Market hive products to consumers or distributors

 

 

Who Employs Beekeepers?

Typically, beekeepers work as owner-operators of apiaries, and produce their own honey, or supply honey for a food production or distribution company. The number of hives they own may range from a dozen or so to several hundred.

 

Other beekeepers work for large companies that produce and sell honey products. Such companies typically operate large factories and employ dozens of beekeepers. Beekeepers may also be hired to provide pollination services to horticultural and seed crop producers.

 

 

Average Income Level

The level of earnings for beekeepers can vary depending on factors such as their level of experience, how many hives they look after, where they work, whether or not they work full-time, whether or not they are self-employed, and many others. Some beekeepers may also receive a percentage of the honey their employer is able to sell. 

 

Although the is no reliable income income information specifically for Beekeepers, we can get a good idea of their general levels of income by looking at the earning levels of workers in closely related occupational groups.

 

Beekeeper Income - Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Beekeepers occupational group ear an average of between $73,770 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 13, 2019).

 

Beekeeper Income - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level (2017) of workers in the Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers occupational group is $69,620 per year.

 

 

 

 

Skills Needed to Bee Successful (...Sorry!)

In order to be effective as a beekeeper you need to posses the following skills and traits, as they will allow you to perform your job with competence, and allow you to endure the ups and downs of this career.

 

• Thorough knowledge of the yearly cycle and habits of bees

• Know when and how to approach bees

• Knowledge of plant types and life cycles

• Knowledge of how and when plants produce nectar

• Able to identify bee diseases, and know how to control them

• Able to extract and assess the quality of bee products such as honey, pollen, royal jelly and propolis

• Carpentry skills for building and repairing hive boxes

• Able to use specialized equipment, such as bee smokers and hive tools

• Small business skills (needed by those running their own businesses)

 

 

Career Advancement Possibilities

Many of those who become beekeepers begin as beekeeping assistants, also known as apiary harvesters. They may be hired over the summer months or on a year-round basis. Working such entry-level jobs allow prospective beekeepers to learn various skills on-the-job, and help them demonstrate their potential to employers.

 

As many beekeepers are self-employed, buying an established apiary or starting an apiary are other ways to begin or advance a career as a beekeeper. It is important to note that setting up a commercial beekeeping business requires considerable capital investment in addition to the cost of buying or leasing land.

 

 

Working Conditions Common to This Profession

Hours: Beekeepers tend to do the majority of their work in the peak seasons of summer and autumn, and work long and irregular hours during these times. Throughout the year, they may work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays.

 

Settings: Beekeepers typically work in honey houses and workshops, and outside on farms and orchards. They must work in all types of weather, and will sometimes be stung by bees. Beekeepers must follow safety precautions and wear appropriate protective clothing in order to avoid injury to themselves or others when working with machinery, tools or hives.

 

 

Beekeeping Jobs

Our job board below has "beekeeper" postings in your area, when available:

 

 

Similar Career Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.

 

• Farmer

• Greenhouse Operator

• Horticulturalist

• Market Gardener

• Nursery Operator

 

 

References

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession:

 

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development website: www1.agric.gov.ab.ca

Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca

Careers New Zealand website: www.careers.govt.nz

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Beekepeer

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a beekeeper can be found on our Biology Scholarships page.

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 

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Biology