beekeeping


Stepping stones to a rewarding career

Career pathways in beekeeping

Bee with a sensor attached to it Photo: Researchers put the bees to sleep before gluing the sensors to them. (Supplied: CSIRO)The beekeeping industry is responsible for the raising of bees and the collection of apiary (bee) products.

There are about 10,000 registered beekeepers in Australia operating approximately 600,000 hives.

By location, NSW is the largest honey producer (39 per cent), followed by South Australia (19 per cent), Victoria (17 per cent), Queensland (14 per cent), Western Australia (7 per cent) and Tasmania (4 per cent). Most commercial honeybee keepers are regionally based.

The prime area for beekeeping and honey production in Australia is a large temperate land stretching from southern Queensland to central Victoria.

NSW is in the heart of this region and has the majority of beekeepers. In 2003 there were 3,575 registered keepers with 256,055 hives. The industry is in its infancy in the Northern Territory with only six registered keepers and fewer than 2,000 hives in 2003.

The prime area for beekeeping and honey production in Australia is a large temperate land stretching from southern Queensland to central Victoria.

Honey is the most common apiary product. Beeswax is the other major product, produced at a fairly constant ratio of 1kg of wax per 60 kg of honey. Queen bees can also be a valuable product for specialised sectors of the industry.

There is a growing market in renting bees for pollination services, especially in South Australia and Victoria where changes in agricultural practice and land management means that there a fewer wild bees to pollinate crops.

Primary activities include:

  • Apiculture (beekeeping)
  • Collecting beeswax
  • Collecting honey
  • Collecting other bee products
  • Collecting royal jelly

 

There are few professional beekeepers in Australia who depend solely on bees and apiary products for their living. The majority of beekeepers do keep bees for a profit, but supplement their income with some other activity, as earnings are volatile.

Apart from a career as a beekeeper/apiarist there are associated areas including transport, food processing, retailing and marketing of honey and honey products.

* Source acknowledgements: MyFuture » and RIRDC Honeybee Program »

Jobs and qualifications

Beekeeping Certificate 11 in Agriculture »
Beekeeping Certificate III in Beekeeping »

Beekeepers operate beehives to produce honey and related products such as beeswax, pollen, royal jelly, propolis (bee glue and bee antiseptic) and queen bees. Beekeepers also operate beehives to assist with the pollination of seed, fruit, nut and vegetable crops.

Beekeepers may perform the following tasks:

  • Build or put together parts of ready-made beehives
  • Treat and paint beehive parts to prevent wood rot
  • Negotiate with property owners and government agencies for sites on which to keep their bees
  • Transport hives to sites that have been assessed for honey or pollen production potential
  • Tnsert sheets of wax stamped with a honeycomb imprint into frames to be placed into hives
  • Remove honeycomb from the hive and extract honey
  • Look after and repair beehives and honey-extracting equipment
  • Control bee diseases, pests and parasites in working hives
  • Re-queen colonies and raise queen bees for their own use or sale
  • Negotiate with farmers to provide pollination services in the growing of nut, fruit, seed and vegetable crops
  • Process and clean beeswax
  • Package and sell honey, pollen, propolis and beeswax.
Specialisations

After gaining adequate experience, beekeepers may choose to focus on one of four main industry segments: apiary, queen bee production, marketing and packing, or pollination. Some may specialise as apiary inspectors or advisers, or laboratory diagnostic technicians.

Beekeepers travel a lot, examining honey and pollen flora and transporting beehives by truck from site to site as plants start flowering. Much of their time is spent outdoors and away from home. Many wear protective clothing such as overalls, gloves and hats with nets attached to protect their faces.

Personal requirements
  • Enjoy botany (plants) and entomology (insects)
  • Free from allergies and able to work with bees
  • Able to work in isolated areas
  • Willing to work long and irregular hours
  • Able to lift heavy weights
  • Happy to work alone
  • Able to keep accurate records.

Source acknowledgement: Job Guide Department of Education