Bees are a vital part of our agricultural system, with over 30% of the world’s most common food crops relying on bee pollination services.
The number of beekeepers is increasing worldwide, with many people turning to beekeeping as a hobby or career. If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper, there are a few things that you should know before you get started.
1. In the United States
Beekeeping is a popular hobby for both profit and leisure. Many people keep bees to help improve pollination in their gardens and orchards.
Beekeepers also sell honey, bee venom and other hive products. Some also rent out their bee colonies for pollination services.
To avoid the loss of their bees due to disease, most beekeepers keep their hives in a closed environment such as a shed or garage. They also need to be vigilant about avoiding unintentional injury from people in the area, and keep their hives well-fenced.
Migrating bee hives to different areas each year is essential for the health of commercial bees. It allows beekeepers to move their hives from cold winter climates to warmer ones for better honey production and early spring build-up.
2. In Europe
The number of beekeepers varies from country to country, but the most common countries are in Europe (Table 1). In 2010, there were more than 45 million beekeepers in Europe.
The most popular beekeeping activity was honey production, with over 220 000 tons produced in 2010. Beekeepers in Europe produce a variety of other products including pollen, royal jelly, queens and packages.
The European Union Reference Laboratory for Honeybee Health sent a questionnaire to each Member State, in addition to Kosovo and Norway, to determine the demographics and state of their beekeeping industry. This data was used to build a database on the beekeeping industry in Europe and establish trends over time.
3. In Asia
Asian beekeepers tend to raise Apis cerana, a native honeybee species which is resistant to varroa mites. These pests have a significant impact on European honey bee colonies.
Historically, Asian honeybees have coevolved with varroa mites and they have developed several defense mechanisms against these pests, making them less likely to become infested with varroa. Additionally, Asian bees are more efficient at removing varroa mites.
This means that fewer bees are affected by the disease and they can produce more honey. This can result in a larger revenue for the beekeeper, which may contribute to increased household incomes.
In our research we have found that small-scale beekeeping with native bees is an important tool to increase household income and improve ecological resilience in rural communities. Beekeeping is an agricultural enterprise which does not require land ownership or rental and can be incorporated into traditional local practices.
4. In Africa
Africa is one of the world’s most diverse continents and boasts a large wild honeybee population (Dietemann et al. 2009).
Africa also has a unique biodiversity with an extremely rich floral resources that host an array of pollinators, including honeybees (Hepburn and Radloff 1998). However, African bee populations are threatened by pathogens, parasites, pests and habitat transformation.
Bees can also be attacked by predators like Palarus latifrons and Philanthus triangulum, which capture bees as they are foraging or enter hives. These attacks can reduce honeybee populations and impede colony productivity, says O’Neill (2008).
To fight these threats, beekeeping companies are establishing supply lines for smallholder beekeepers to produce organic wax and honey. This is a new way for smallholders to increase their income while also helping honeybees.