A beekeeper is a person who manages one or more hives of honey bees. Most beekeepers have a goal in mind: honey production. A few keep bees in order to promote pollination and to encourage the honey bee population. Here at the Salmon Center we leave all the honey produced by the bees in the hive so that they can consume it themselves rather than harvesting it to eat or sell. Our bees are here to educate our community, and for one more important job: pollinate the crops on the farm.
A frame filled with honey being checked during a hive inspection at the Salmon Center
In the United States, honeybees are considered livestock. Beekeepers are responsible for their hives’ well-being: checking for pests and disease, providing supplemental feed as needed, and maintaining the hive. Observing the hive, both by watching activity from the outside, and opening it up to carefully inspect the frames inside, is an important part of the job. (For more on what a hive looks like from the inside, go to “Hive Basics”.) However, honey bees exist in a carefully constructed space, and intruding on them too much can harm their systems – beekeepers learn how to judge a hive’s health by its sound, weight, and how the bees behave when entering and exiting. When there’s an issue, it’s time for the beekeeper to step in; if the bees seem healthy, it’s best to leave them to work in peace.
Are you interested in starting your own hive? It’s important to know what beekeeping involves, including all the challenges and rewards, before purchasing any bees. Visit https://wasba.org/education/ to learn more and register for a beekeeping course through the Washington State Beekeepers Association.