Beekeepers build and clean hives, induct wild swarms, split colonies, collect honey, and ensure the overall health of the hive.
The average beekeeper manages a few hundred hives, and their responsibilities vary depending on the climate. They also work long hours, especially during peak seasons like spring and summer when the bees are most active.
In addition to commercial apiaries, beekeepers can also work on smaller farms where honeybees are raised. These farms may be located near pollination-dependent crops or in areas where wild bees are not enough to provide adequate crop pollination.
Apiarists must have an extensive knowledge of bee biology and an understanding of the importance of insect pollination for plant production. They may be responsible for assembling beehives and other equipment, purchasing and selling honeybees, transporting wild beehives to a central location, raising queen bees and harvesting honey.
Some beekeepers may work in research, monitoring and recording the activities of a bee colony and its numbers. This work is becoming increasingly important as bee diseases and the parasitical varroa mite have made beekeeping a more difficult profession.
Beekeeping can be a rewarding career for those who enjoy working outside and have an interest in the natural world. It is a good way to learn more about agriculture and environmental preservation.
The majority of beekeepers work in bee farms, where they take care of bees and hives. Their typical activities include collecting resources and ensuring optimum placement of the hives for maximum production. They may also have some ecological responsibilities, such as promoting plant health where the plants are dependent on bees for pollination.
The beekeeping industry is an enormous part of the US agricultural economy and an important area of research. The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and the TN Department of Agriculture provide support for beekeepers throughout the state through a variety of programs.
The UT Institute of Agriculture’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab (HBREL) is staffed by faculty, visiting scholars, post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, undergraduate students, technicians, and laboratory assistants. All of them work together to promote the collective understanding of honey bees and the communities that these bees support.
Agricultural Research Institutions
Agricultural research institutions offer a variety of opportunities for beekeepers to learn about bee biology, ecology and production. Some of these organizations specialize in beekeeping and others focus on a broad range of agricultural subjects, including crop production, nematology, animal nutrition, plant breeding and pest management.
Some of the most well-known institutions where beekeepers work include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
These units are responsible for supporting ongoing basic research and making groundbreaking discoveries that drive agricultural innovation. ARS is different than many other USDA research agencies because it relies on guaranteed funding to support in-house researchers, instead of competing for grants from universities and national laboratories.
ARS research units contribute a significant portion of their funding to climate mitigation research, which addresses the growing impact of global warming on agriculture. To support this effort, ARS supports a network of climate hubs, which help farmers and ranchers understand the risks they face from climate change. These hubs also connect a range of federal and state agencies, colleges and universities, cooperative extension, agricultural experiment stations and regional climate change organizations.
A commercial apiary is a beekeeping operation that produces honey or pollen. Apiaries may also produce nucleus colonies (a small colony consisting of a laying queen and enough worker bees to cover four or five frames).
In the PNW, commercial beekeepers sell honey, pollen, and wax directly to consumers. In addition, beekeepers may sell brood and other hive products to other beekeepers.
Beekeeping is a seasonal occupation, with summer and fall being the peak months for beekeepers. Some beekeepers may work indoors during the winter.
To keep hives healthy, beekeepers should not open them in cold weather. The bees cannot fly when temperatures are below 50 degF (10degC) and it is important to keep hives at a safe temperature.
The state of Pennsylvania conducts annual inspections to assess the health of apiaries and ensure compliance with the state’s bee law. The Bee Law outlines requirements for registration of apiaries and inspections to control the spread of diseases, pests, and regulated organisms.