There are various purposes for beekeeping. Commercial beekeeping, which largely focuses on crop pollination and large scale honey production, and hobby beekeeping which is a typically local and personal scale mostly focused on honey production for personal satisfaction.
In between those are are “sideliner” micro or small business types and “homestead” beekeeping which could be seen as a variant of sideliner, but more personal.
I’ll focus on homestead beekeeping in this post because it pertains most and most closely to craft/trade beekeeping observed most familiarly throughout history. what is now referred to as “homestead” beekeeping is the same as those people who lived the “beekeeping life much as a carpenter or blacksmith spent their entire lives working with bees and products of the hive to make a variety of items used not only in their own homes but as products to trade and sell in their community.
These are the people who went beyond honey, pollination, and beeswax candles. These folks refined all of those things and added soaps, health and beauty products like beeswax skin creams, lip balms, and propolis toothpaste, and tinctures.
They are a specialist in animal husbandry, a unique apothecary, and artisan all rolled in one. The honey, beeswax, pollen, and propolis they collect are used to make healthcare items, artistic crafts, housewares, and foodstuffs. They benefit their own and neighboring gardens, small farms, and orchards with pollination.
These are people who engage in trade, barter, and direct sales with the myriad of things they make from their bee hives harvest. They know about markets and marketing. They are experienced salespeople and neighbors who always come bearing gifts and useful things to trade.
They take a professional approach to apiculture, making the most of every aspect of it. They live and breathe beekeeping and every aspect of it. Often they become experts in one or more aspects of their craft.
I engage in apiculture this way and I train others to become apiarist as well. It is my goal to bring others into the small and unique craft of apiculture that has come down to us, becoming more refined and more well studied over what is literally centuries.
I think it’s great that more people are interested in beekeeping as a hobby. I think it’s important that we have enough people involved in commercial beekeeping as well. However, I think it’s a special calling and dedicated person that is one of the very few craft/trade Masters of what can be called “Homestead” beekeeping.