Do You Want to be a Beekeeper?

Thursday 8 February 2024

Those with years of experience in beekeeping can reflect on their journey and contemplate the valuable insights they wish they had known earlier in their careers. As beekeepers, we learn from our experiences, but there is definitely some key pieces of information any new beekeeper should understand prior to starting their beekeeping journey. In this week’s blog we will explore what aspiring beekeepers ought to know before they purchase any bees.

Do You Want to be a Beekeeper?

To begin, an aspiring beekeeper needs to experience handling honey bees. While one might believe they love honey bees, and that they have a passion for beekeeping, the truth is that cannot be known until they gain first-hand experience. An aspiring beekeeper should get strung several times to determine if they are allergic, and if they can handle the discomfort of being stung. Additionally, they should thoroughly evaluate their capacity to engage in extended periods of physical labor, particularly in hot weather. Aspiring beekeepers must understand that beekeeping is demanding work, and having a genuine passion for it is crucial1.

Potential beekeepers need to have some understanding of the beekeeping industry in Canada. More specially they should learn about the industry within their own province, and municipality in which they plan to keep bees. Atlantic Canada has an established beekeeping industry, where colonies are used for both pollination services and honey production1.

In Atlantic Canada, honey bees significantly support pollination of wild blueberries and cranberries. In fact, the need for pollination services exceeds the supply of pollination units1.

Each Atlantic province is known for producing high quality honey that can be sold directly to consumers or in bulk. Beyond honey production, beekeepers can explore additional avenues for profit, such as selling or utilizing wax, and engaging in the sale of bees, including nucleus colonies or queens1. There is a growing need for commercial beekeepers in Atlantic Canada, and the industry provides multiple opportunities for profitability1.

That being said, new beekeepers must be prepared to embrace the economic struggles of starting a new business. In terms of building new customers and markets, as well as sourcing bee yards and equipment, new beekeepers are starting from scratch1. Whether starting a new business or purchasing an existing one, new beekeepers often succeed when they have an entrepreneurial spirit. Key characteristics associated with entrepreneurs are resiliency, motivation, flexibility, vision, and self-belief2,3.

Aspiring beekeepers need an understanding of provincial beekeeping rules and regulations. In Atlantic Canada, there are four legislative acts that govern our daily beekeeping activities. To learn about the provincial rules and regulations read ATTTA’s past blog “The Rules for Successful Beekeeping”. Beekeepers must also follow municipal bylaws, which outline where bees are allowed to be kept if they are permitted within the municipality.

Potential beekeepers should familiarize themselves with where to buy bees and equipment, along with their associated costs. This involves understanding the various options available for acquiring bees, and learning about the essential equipment for beekeeping, including protective clothing, tools, and hive equipment.


Finally, aspiring beekeepers should learn about the beekeeping season. This does not mean they need knowledge of every task corresponding to each of the four seasons but rather a solid understanding of when beekeepers experience peak activity and are busiest throughout the year. To learn more about what beekeepers do each season of the year read ATTTA’s blog series “A Beekeepers Calendar”.

There are a variety of challenges and opportunities when entering the beekeeping industry. Some challenges facing the industry include an aging beekeeper demographic, which is why it is important to promote beekeeping to the younger generation; a consistent need for diversity in the beekeeping community; fluctuating markets; changes in regulations; bee health and biosecurity concerns; sourcing queen bees; and climate change1. There are also opportunities facing the industry including increased consumer demand for local honey in many regions; a growing demand for pollination services; and a demand for local queens1. New beekeepers should consider these limitations and demands in their region and determine how they may fill a gap.

Having a good understanding of what types of activities beekeeping involves, knowledge of the industry, awareness of the rules and regulations, an understanding of the associated costs of starting beekeeping, and a general overview of a beekeeper's annual responsibilities, allows aspiring beekeepers to make informed decisions about taking the next step in their beekeeping journey.

It is important to understand that the next step may not necessarily be purchasing bees. There are multiple other tasks that new beekeepers need to complete, such as joining their provincial beekeeping association, finding a beekeeping mentor, and signing up for a credible beekeeping course. Getting the necessary training is crucial for new beekeepers. A past study found that when new beekeepers receive training and education they significantly improve honey bee colony survival4.


  1. McCallum, R., 2020. Chasing the Buzz: Attracting New Beekeepers to the Hive. American Entomologist, 66(2), pp.20-23.
  2. Rampton, J., 2014. 5 personality traits of an entrepreneur. Forbes, 14. 
  3. Revzin, S. and V. Revzin., 2028. How entrepreneurship can be learned by anyone. Forbes, 18. 

  4. Jacques, A., Laurent, M., Epilobee Consortium, Ribière-Chabert, M., Saussac, M., Bougeard, S., Budge, G.E., Hendrikx, P. and Chauzat, M.P., 2017. A pan-European epidemiological study reveals honey bee colony survival depends on beekeeper education and disease control. PLoS one, 12(3), p.e0172591.

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