One of the most misunderstood jobs or pastimes is beekeeping. Many people ask the questions “What is a beekeeper?” and “What does a keeper do?”. A basic explanation is that a beekeeper has an important role in the support of honeybee populations. To elaborate, they will promote local pollination in both natural and agricultural environments and help to maintain the health of the colony.
Let’s take a closer look at What is a Beekeeper and beekeeping,
- the techniques,
- tools used,
- how people become beekeepers
The Role of a Beekeeper
As pollinators, the primary role of bees is to transfer flowering plant pollen from the stamen (male reproductive organs) to the pistil (female reproductive organs). The pollen transfer facilitates the fertilization of the plant which in turn leads to fruit, seed, and nut production.
A pollinator can carry out self-pollination (within the same flower) or cross-pollination (with different flowering plants). Bees also produce honey as a tasty byproduct of these essential fertilization activities. This makes bees a vital part of the ecosystem and they require the support of a beekeeper.
When you’re examining the question, what is a beekeeper? It can be helpful to break down the six main responsibilities of this role:
1. Queen Rearing by a Beekeeper
Beekeepers often participate in the queen rearing process when they breed her and rear her to improve the genetics of the entire colony. The queen is vital for the productivity and survival of the entire colony. They lay the eggs to create workers, drones, and even the queen bees that may replace them when the time is right.
2. The Beekeeper Manages the Bee Colony
A beekeeper is responsible for beehive management, this involves inspection, monitoring productivity, and ensuring that there is sufficient water and food. If any evidence of disease is found, steps can be taken to resolve the issue.
3. Health Management of the Bees
A beekeeper will monitor the health of the bees to recognize and deal with any pests or diseases that are a threat. Choosing the right treatment methods will support the resilience and vitality of the entire colony.
4. Bee Keepers Need to be Proactive in Controlling Bee Swarms
Swarms need to be controlled or prevented to keep the hive population stable and to prevent some of the workers from leaving with a new queen to establish a wild colony.
5. Harvesting Honey By the Beekeeper
When many people wonder what is a beekeeper called, they may think of them as honey harvesters. In reality, this is only one of the essential tasks that a beekeeper undertakes to keep the colony healthy and productive.
The honey is extracted from honeycombs, the cell area is capped with beeswax, and a honey extractor is used to make the process safer. This honey is then processed and consumed or packaged for sale.
6. Beekeepers Provide Pollination Services in Agriculture
Some beekeepers provide pollination services to farmers to increase their crop yields. Honeybees will improve the quality of fruit and other crops and this can be a profitable business. The beekeeper transports their hives to the agricultural area or orchard when the flowers are in bloom. This significantly increases the pollination of the crops.
Beekeeper’s Equipment and Tools
Beekeepers need specialized tools and equipment to manage the hives and work safely with bees. Here are four pieces of essential equipment needed for beekeeping:
1. The Beekeeping Suit
This is a white protective suit that covers the entire body with a mesh face piece or veil to protect the eyes. The beekeeper will wear gloves to protect his hands and wrists as he works with honeycombs or during a beehive inspection.
2. The Bee Smoker
The device produces cool and calming smoke that makes the bees placid as the beekeeper works. The smoke triggers a response to make the bees eat honey and it disrupts the communication of the hive. This significantly reduces the risk of a defensive reaction which could lead to swarming and stinging.
3. The Hive Tool
This is a pry bar type tool that is used to separate hive parts, scrape away propolis, lift honeycomb frames, and other important tasks.
4. The Bee Brush
This is a soft-bristled brush that is used to carefully sweep away bees from hive components during an inspection or a honeycomb during honey harvesting.
Beekeeping Practices and Techniques
Beekeeping can be complex and there are a lot of things that can go wrong. The best way to avoid many potential problems is to use these four proven practices and techniques;
1. Regular Colony Management
It’s essential to perform regular beehive inspections to check the health and general progress of the colony. A beekeeper will examine each frame to find signs of disease, pest infestations, sufficient food, a healthy brood, and of course the all important queen.
2. Proper Beehive Setup
The ideal location for a beehive is a sunny spot with plenty of nearby shade for the hotter parts of summer. This area needs to be elevated from the ground to prevent potential water logging problems during rainfall. The hive needs to be sheltered from strong winds and the local regulations and proximity of neighbors should be taken into account.
3. Sustainability of the Bee Colony
It’s important to adopt sustainable beekeeping practices to keep the colony healthy and productive. Avoiding the use of pesticides in the area and using natural pest management techniques is advisable.
Use native plant diversity with perennial and annual flowering plants to maintain a steady supply of nectar and pollen. The honeybees will forage further afield, but having busy pollinators working nearby will promote healthier plant growth closer to home.
4. Harvesting Honey from the Beehive by the Beekeeper
Most beekeepers will harvest honey when the moisture content is low and the honeycomb cells have been capped with beeswax. Each frame is removed from the beehive, the cells are uncapped and the honey is extracted with a honey extractor. The collected honey is then filtered and stored for consumption or prepared for sale.
Becoming a Beekeeper
The best way to get started as a beekeeper is to read books, attend workshops, check online information sources, and connect with local experienced beekeepers. This is how you will learn more about bee health, hive management, honey production, and many other interesting facets of beekeeping.
Enrolling in a beekeeping workshop course is a big step, these are often offered by community colleges, agricultural extension services, or beekeeping associations.
This is the ideal way to get some practical knowledge and hands-on experience with honeybees. An experienced instructor can answer a lot of your questions to fill in gaps in your expanding knowledge.
Before you get started with your first beehive, you will need to check if there are any licenses, permits, or requirements for beekeeping in your locality. The best place to find this information is a local agricultural authority or a beekeeping association.
When you’re ready to start, you will need to gather the beehives, protective gear, a hive tool, smoker, bee brush, frames, and a foundation for the hives. It’s a good idea to start small with a single or very manageable number of beehives. As your knowledge, experience, and resources grow you can add more later as needed.
Conclusion-What is a Beekeeper
We hope that we’ve offered sufficient insights to answer the question, what is a beekeeper? If you’re interested in beekeeping, you will quickly learn that this is a lifelong commitment to the well-being of your bees. Start small, commit to ongoing learning and you can gradually grow a healthy and profitable beekeeping hobby or business.