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Beekeeper

Beekeepers manage and keep colonies of honey bees in apiaries (bee-yards) to produce honey and hive by-products (for example, pollen, bees wax), pollinate crops or produce queens and bees.

Also Known As:Apiarist, Farmer
NOC Number(s):8251
Minimum Education:Education/training requirements vary
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to below average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:D M O

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Beekeeper


Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Beekeeping duties vary with the seasons but, in general, beekeepers:

  • maintain healthy bees for honey production and pollination
  • prepare colonies for production and wintering 
  • inspect colonies for vitality, queen performance, level of food reserves and the presence of parasites or disease
  • manage bee colonies by feeding bees, replacing queen bees, dividing colonies and replacing combs
  • recognize, report and monitor hive health issues and apply appropriate cures and controls
  • move bees to different locations to pollinate field crops
  • follow food safety and traceability guidelines and regulations when harvesting and processing honey and other hive products  
  • collect and package honey, pollen and beeswax
  • market products to consumers or packers
  • maintain bee yard and beekeeping equipment
  • keep records of production and colony conditions.

In winter, beekeepers regularly check colonies in wintering facilities, and repair and maintain hive boxes and equipment in preparation for spring.

Beekeepers use equipment such as special protective clothing, bee smokers, hive tools and carpentry tools. Commercial beekeepers also drive trucks and fork-lifts, and operate and maintain machines ranging from extractors and honey processing equipment to grass mowers and chemical sprayers (for controlling grass around hives). Beekeepers must use pesticides and antibiotics responsibly in their bee colonies.

In large scale commercial operations bee keepers may have different responsibilities depending on years of experience. For example,

  • apiary harvesters harvest honey, clean and maintain hive equipment and bee yard.
  • apiary workers assist apiary technicians with all aspects of caring for bees, operating and maintaining equipment and collecting and packaging honey.
  • apiary technicians do all of the above and also may supervise staff and interact with external farm personnel (for example, supply companies, owners of other apiaries).

Working Conditions

Beekeepers are busiest in spring, summer and fall, and may work long hours in the summer. They may be required to work evenings, nights, weekends and holidays.

Beekeepers work outside in all kinds of weather. Although automation and mechanization have helped, the work often is repetitive, physically demanding and routinely may require lifting items that weigh over 20 kilograms.

Beekeepers must follow safety precautions and wear appropriate protective clothing to avoid injury to themselves or others when working with machinery, tools or hives. Appropriate hygiene practices must be followed to prevent or control the spread of diseases from hive to hive or the contamination of the hive products.


Personal Characteristics

Beekeepers need the following characteristics:

  • an interest in working with honey bees
  • the ability to withstand bee stings and no allergies to honey bee stings
  • good physical condition
  • good coordination and manual dexterity
  • the ability to follow instructions and work without supervision
  • a responsible attitude when handling equipment
  • the ability to work well with others in a team
  • flexibility and adaptability.

They should enjoy taking a methodical approach to their work.


Educational Requirements

Beekeepers must be knowledgeable about:

  • bee biology and behavior
  • nectar sources and honey quality
  • the identification and control of diseases, parasites and predators that affect bees
  • the proper use of pesticides, antibiotics and chemicals
  • issues and trends related to the industry as a whole 
  • marketing methods
  • provincial legislation (the Bee Act, Bee Regulation and Honey Grading Regulation)
  • food safety and employment regulations
  • financial and production record keeping. 

Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have:

  • First Aid and CPR training
  • hand tool skills
  • the ability to operate and maintain trucks, forklifts and other equipment.

Inexperienced beekeepers are advised to obtain related experience by working with established beekeepers. Anyone who has bees or beekeeping equipment is required to register annually with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development administers the Alberta Green Certificate Farm Training Program, an apprenticeship-type program that combines practical on-farm experience and training with formal education in the form of home study courses, workshops, short courses or college agricultural courses. The Green Certificate program offers Beekeeping Technician training.

Applicants must be at least 15 years of age and have a supportive farm trainer and job site. Trainees who are also high school students can receive high school diploma credits in an approved optional curriculum for achieving a Green Certificate.

Short courses are offered periodically by local beekeeper associations and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

In Alberta, Grande Prairie Regional College offers a 45 week Commercial Beekeeping certificate program. Admission to this program is on a first qualified, first admitted basis. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have English Language Arts 20-2 or 20-3, or equivalent.

To use some pesticides, beekeepers must hold a pesticide applicator certificate. Completion of the Farmer Pesticide Certificate program through Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development is recommended.

Section revised May 2012

Employment and Advancement

Large beekeeping operations often employ beekeeping assistants (apiary harvesters and workers) over the summer months. Some employ assistants year-round. There is considerable demand for beekeeping assistants in Alberta due to a growing demand for hives to pollinate seed canola in southern Alberta.

Beekeepers may start their own businesses or buy an established apiary. Setting up a commercial beekeeping business requires considerable capital investment in addition to the cost of land.

Beekeepers are part of the much larger National Occupational Classification 8251: Farmers and Farm Managers. In Alberta, most people employed in this classification work in the Agriculture industry.


Salary

Beekeepers' incomes depend on weather conditions, production costs, the current market value of honey, the amount of honey or pollen produced per hive, and monies received for pollination services or the sale of queens and honey bees.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Farmers and Farm Managers occupational group earned on average from $21.73 to $27.45 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $23.97 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Beekeepers in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers category earned the following average wages in Canada (2011 estimates):

  • apiary harvesters $10.87 an hour
  • apiary workers $11.92 an hour
  • apiary technicians from $12.94 to $13.96 an hour.

For some seasonal agricultural workers, accomodation is provided by the employer in addition to wages.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development's "Commercial Honey Industry" webpage: www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex2743?opendocument

Alberta Beekeepers Association (ABA) website: www.albertabeekeepers.org

Canadian Honey Council websiste: www.honeycouncil.ca


Related Occupational Profiles
Entomologist
Farm Worker or Technician
Market Gardener

Related High School Subjects
Business, Administration, Finance and Information Technology (Management and Marketing); Natural Resources (Agriculture; and Environmental Stewardship); and Science (Biology)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Agriculture and Related Technologies

Produced May 2011
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services