How to Become a Beekeeper: Helpful Considerations to Make Before Starting
Many areas in the world struggle with dwindling bee populations. Bees are crucial to every ecosystem because they pollinate the plants and promote growth. Without bees, there are not enough pollinators in the world. If this is an issue you want to address personally, you should consider beekeeping. Being a beekeeper comes with several responsibilities though, so here is what you should think about before you decide to do it.
Is the Job in Demand?
Technically, beekeeping is considered part of agricultural work, and agricultural work is expected to decline six percent between 2014 and 2024. This is mostly due to technology and machinery replacing certain jobs people hold, like hand-picking produce. More machinery means that fewer people are needed to work and operate the machinery. This is unlikely to affect the demand for beekeepers because being a beekeeper requires mostly hands-on experience and work.
What Are the Education Requirements?
Though some people start beekeeping with only a high school diploma, about 60 percent of beekeepers have a bachelor's degree. The kind of degree you pursue to be a beekeeper really depends on what you want to specifically do with it. If you have the conservation approach in mind, a fish and wildlife management degree would be relevant. Ecology, monitoring, and breeding would do best with an environmental biology degree. Depending on what you do, it would also help to study statistics, geography, data science, and agricultural science.
What Is the Startup Cost and Average Salary?
You will need money set aside before starting beekeeping to pay for your hives and your bees. It costs about 300 dollars for a hive and another 100 dollars for bees, and most beekeepers recommend starting to two hives.
Though solid statistics are lacking, the average beekeeper annual salary amounts to $44,749. This purely depends on productivity and how you use your bees. Many beekeepers have multiple avenues for income, including honey and crop pollination. If you are beekeeping purely to provide bees to your local area and for your own personal use, it turns into more of a hobby than a career. You will need to decide which route you want to take.
Where Do Beekeepers Work?
If you want to be a beekeeper, you can expect to spend a great deal of your working time outdoors. This requires a focus on gathering resources and making sure the hives are placed in such a way that maximum production is promoted. You may need to move hives. You will promote the plant life in the area where you keep your bees, and you do all of this in all weather conditions. Some beekeepers also use their bees to pollinate commercial crops, so they spend a lot of time at different farms and letting their bees do their job.
What Is the Job Description for a Beekeeper?
Now that you know the preliminary requirements to be a beekeeper, you will need to decide which route to take with your bees. You can either collect honey, pollinate commercial crops, or conduct bee-related research. For research, beekeepers monitor the effects of pesticides on the bees and the spread of parasites like the varroa mite. Colony Collapse Disorder is a large concern today, so any research helps. Based on what you choose to do, your job description will vary.
General Beekeeping Responsibilities
Though the job description is a bit different for each beekeeper, there are still general responsibilities you need to fulfill. Here is what to expect.
- Construct, assemble, and maintain hives with hand tools.
- Evacuate the bees (using a smoke pot or another tool) to collect honey and inspect the hive.
- Find the best area for pollination and move the beehives.
- Inspect the bees for parasites or disease and repair any damage.
- Monitor the bees and beehives and record your observations.
- Prepare and package the products that are for sale.
- Produce bee colonies and queen bees for sale.
- Raise bees to produce honey and/or pollinate crops.
If you own an entire bee farm and need to hire employees, there are even more responsibilities you have. Here are just a few of the responsibilities you, as a manager, will have to fulfill.
- Breed the bees to ensure the population is healthy.
- Complete all paperwork, including payroll, invoicing, and taxes.
- Hire, train, and manage each beekeeper you hire.
- Make sure the bees are healthy and the products are high quality.
- Manage the marketing and sales of your bee products.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Now it is time to get into the nitty-gritty questions that you should ask yourself. Being a beekeeper is hard work, meaning that there are some aspects of beekeeping that you have to be ready for. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you really want to be a beekeeper.
- Why would I like to keep bees? Having a goal in mind will motivate you and help you know which route to take.
- Am I afraid of getting stung? Even when you wear a bee suit and gloves, the bees will still sting you. You will have to accept that fact.
- Am I allergic to insect bites or stings? If you do not know, it is a good idea to have an allergist test you for it. With a mild allergic reaction, you can still keep bees if you keep an epi-pen and cell phone on you. If you are severely allergic, this may not be the hobby or career for you.
- Are my neighbors okay with my decision? It is always courteous to be a good neighbor and make sure those living around you are okay with having beehives in the neighborhood. Bees will travel up to five miles to find pollen and nectar! If your nearest neighbor is not close, you do not have to worry about it.
- Can I lift at least 25 pounds? Moving beehives is hard work, especially when they are full of honey. The most popular style of beehive, the Langstroth, gets especially heavy. Make sure you are ready to put in the physical effort, or you can invest in a hive that requires less lifting.
- Can I tend the hives year round? Bees need tending all year long, so you cannot leave for long periods of time. If you do, it is best to hire a backup beekeeper to tend them while you are gone.
Beekeeping takes hard work, but you can do it if you have the desire. Bees are crucial to our ecosystems and we have to protect them. We will take every beekeeper we can get, but you have to be prepared for it. Take these considerations to heart so you can decide if this is the path you want to take.
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