If you look up the definition of “Apiculture”, the most common distinction you’ll see is that many consider it a large scale of beekeeping or commercial beekeeping. I share that only to a certain degree though.
Apiculture, historically, is akin to many other types of animal husbandry. Cattle ranching, sheep, horses, even ostriches. Yes, most ranching operations are commercial endeavors with a goal of selling animals for use in the food industry or even to include other industries which use other parts of animals not eaten. However, animal husbandry isn’t limited to food operations. Many horse and other ranchers provide anial breeding and training for anything from racing to riding to therapeutic purposes.
Ultimately though, the operation is the same. It all involves the total or holistic experience of raising healthy animals (or insects) for a purpose and everything that is involved in that.
I teach Apicullture which includes beekeeping, which I teach as a hobbyist activity specific to a limited number of hives and the bees in them in small scale, and generally individual oriented outcomes. Beekeeping is apiculture, but apiculture is more than beekeeping.
Apicutlure includes not only direct care of and for bees and the hives they are kept in, but includes proper management of the environment in which they are kept and forage in. It includes building fences, growing or being involved in what is growing in the foragable area they operate in. It includes knowledge of the bees, the pests they deal with, the hive stands, the pesticides used around them, the harvest of the hive, the methods and tools used in working the hives and much more.
I manage apiaries for clients to provide specific results. To provide a harvest of honey and wax from the hive. To provide pollination of plants that benfit from and provide benefit to bees. To provide traaining and education to those interested in beekeeping and apiculture as well as to the general public to grow awareness. To provide therapeutic experiences for those with special needs such as PTSD, autism, and other concerns.
Beekeepers as hobbyists come to learn methods, techniques and basic knowledge of working with bees that will fulfil personal interests. However, as a professional apiarist, I must manage an fully operational apiary to meet all the expectations of the client including the land management, hive and apiary equiment maintenance, bee colony care, tracking, seeing to Personal Protection Equipment, and much more that is involved in the total operations of an operational apiary.
That then is what I teach Apicultural apprentices as they assist in the tasks of those operations. Of course they will take those skills and knowledge to benefit their own hobbyist beekeeping efforts, but that will only be one part of their total gained experience and knowledge.
The common definitions which describe apiaculture as large scale, commercial beekeeping, I think, do an injustice to apiculture. An operational apiary can have as few as two hives in it and as many as dozens, hundreds or thousands (as part of a multi-apiary endeavor). The critical point is hthat it is operational. There are goals and objectives relating to expected outcomes of the apiary. Often, a professional apiarist may be working on behalf of a client or employer and doesn’t actually own the apiary, hives, or the bees they work with. They may be a volunteer helping a school or non-profit organization and not even be paid to do what they do, as is their choice., though it should not be expected.
So, as I teach and practice it, apiculture is not so much about the number of bees or hives one has, but the total operational objective and results of having bees to meet specified goals.It is everything that goes into it, even those things which may not seem related or obvious at first glance. Simply put, apiculture is bee ranching.