Image of a beekeeper collecting honey from the hives

What does the beekeeper do?

Bees are very important to humans because they spread pollen, which enables plants to grow. One third of the food we eat depends on bees, including an amazing 70 farm crops. Beekeepers keep honeybees to collect the honey they make. Bees make honey from the sugary nectar they collect from flowers and store it as a winter food.

Image of wooden bee hives

Bee hives

Beekeepers provide hives for the bees to live in. A hive is a set of rectangular wooden boxes, which each hold a sheet of wax (a honeycomb). Each colony of bees in a hive has a single queen. The queen bee lays eggs that are placed in the wax comb and the eggs develop into grubs (also called larva) and then bees.

Image of a bee collecting pollen from a flower

Types of honey

The honey that is removed from the hive is put into jars and then sold. There are many different types of honey and the flavour of each one depends on the flowers that the honeybees visit to collect the pollen and the nectar that they eat.

Click on the facts

 Bee facts

  • 1. In the UK there are three types of bee: solitary bees, bumblebees and honeybees
  • 2. Solitary bees live alone and usually lay their eggs in holes in the ground
  • 3. Bumblebees die in winter, except for the queen
  • 4. Bees can fly at up to 22mph and travel up to three miles in search of food
  • 5. Bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers to use as food
  • 6. Not all bees sting but a bee dies when it uses its sting

 Honeybee facts

  • 1. A large honeybee colony can have up to 70,000 bees
  • 2. Each colony has one female queen, several thousand workers and a few hundred males, called drones
  • 3. Honeybees live in the wild in nests and also in man-made wooden hives
  • 4. A wax honeycomb is made up of hexagon-shaped cells for the eggs to develop in
  • 5. Bees produce honey, which they eat to give them energy to fly
  • 6. Worker bees live for only 6–8 weeks before their wings are worn out
  • 7. To collect 1kg of honey, bees will make about 20,000 flower visits
  • 8. Honeybees can live through the winter – they keep the hive warm by vibrating their wing muscles (and they can keep the hive cool in summer too!)

 Beekeeping facts

  • 1. There are around 30,000 beekeepers in the UK
  • 2. Altogether British beekeepers produce more than 2000 tonnes of honey each year
  • 3. Beekeepers wear protective clothing to prevent themselves being stung
  • 4. As well as honey, beekeepers collect valuable beeswax – this can be used to make furniture polish and in the past was used to make candles

 Beekeeper jobs

  • 1. Feeding bees with syrup
  • 2. Removing honey
  • 3. Filtering the honey to clean it
  • 4. Checking hives for disease
  • 5. Cleaning frames and other equipment like smokers
  • 6. Varnishing the hive to protect it from rotting
  • 7. Checking for mice
  • 8. Trapping wasps
  • 9. Selling honey, collecting money and keeping accounts