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Beekeeper with smoker checks honeycombs of a bee colony
Beekeeper uncovering honeycombs to extract honey

The beekeeper , beekeepers or Zeidler deals with the attitude , propagation and breeding of honey bees and the production of honey and other bee products. More economically relevant today is the pollination performance of honey bees in agriculture as a by-product of beekeeping. Beekeeper is a combination of words from the Low German term Imme for "bee" and the Middle Low German word kar for "basket, vessel". Beekeepers are part of agriculture and are subject to bee law . They do not need any special training, but in German-speaking countries most new beekeepers complete a basic course. There are also further training courses such as those for beekeepers with a federal certificate in Switzerland and apprenticeships such as those for animal keepers specializing in beekeeping in Germany. A Zeidler is a beekeeper with wild or semi-wild honey bee colonies, mostly in the forest.


The beekeeper keeps his bee colonies in artificial nesting holes, the beehives , in which brood nest and honey stores are protected from the weather and the predation of other animals. The western honeybee and its subspecies are of the greatest importance for global beekeeping . In many Asian countries, but also there originally occurring is Apis cerana in simple log hives or cavities held by walls.

In ancient times, beekeepers imitated the natural tree cavities of honeybees with clay pipes, log hives made of wood, woven straw baskets and hives from other materials. The disadvantage of these dwellings was that part of the honeycomb structure of the bees was cut out during the honey harvest and thus destroyed. In the middle of the 19th century, this stable structure was replaced by the so-called mobile honeycomb structure in magazine hives . Thereby, the beekeeper can yielding one hand costumes migration into , on the other hand it can honey and pollen and propolis harvest gently without intervening a bee colony in the natural processes. The mobile honeycomb frames also make it possible to artificially multiply bee colonies (cuttings) and to match stronger and weaker colonies in favor of an optimal harvest.

Beekeeper examines a magazine hive with intensive use of a smoker

The beekeeper uses the honey to produce food and is therefore subject to strict food legislation in German-speaking countries. Other products are pollen and propolis, which are used in therapeutic products and are also subject to strict food legislation. The production of beeswax for candles, among other things, has lost its importance compared to previous centuries.

Honey bees are the main pollinators of flowering plants . In addition to the ecological importance of honey bees as pollinators of wild and cultivated plants, beekeeping has great economic benefits for agriculture , where it increases the yield and quality of fruit and vegetables. The annual economic value of honeybees is estimated at four billion euros in Germany and at 330 million francs in Switzerland, with around three quarters being accounted for by the pollination of fruit and berries and a quarter by honey bee products.

Because of their pollination capacity, the honey bee is the third most important livestock in agriculture worldwide after cattle and pigs. In most regions of the German-speaking countries (in contrast to the USA, for example), beekeepers do not yet receive any equivalent value for pollination.


Bees at work in the beehive

The term beekeeper is also used synonymously instead of beekeeper. In the strict sense of the word, however, very few beekeepers actually breed their bees. This is not least due to the fact that the natural mating of young queens takes place uncontrollably in the air (see also → Wedding flight ). Several drones from a catchment area of ​​around one hundred square kilometers are involved. What the beekeepers do, however, is a targeted reproduction of queens, whereby they obtain their starting material again and again, after a few generations, from mother stations or breeders. There are references to improve the genetic material .

Another method for targeted selection is the artificial instrumental insemination of queen bees (under the microscope). Instrumental insemination could be made easier by the fact that bees' semen can be preserved in the future . Drones that are no longer alive would then be necessary for this process and barriers to strict epidemic hygiene regulations would be eliminated. The Brandenburg State Institute for Apiculture in Hohen Neuendorf ( Oberhavel district ) received a grant from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in the amount of 400,000 euros for the development of a conservation method in April 2009 .

History of beekeeping

Honey hunter on about 8000 year old cave paintings from the Cuevas de la Araña near Valencia (Spain)

Even today, honey bees are wild animals that actually do not need human care. Originally, they preferred cavities in trees to build their honeycomb structure . For millennia, bees have been used by humans for their products such as wax and honey . The oldest evidence of the “hunt” for bee products attests to rock paintings from the Cuevas de la Araña in Spain that are 12,000 years old, and the bees' dwellings were tracked down and exploited. With the emergence of the great cultures in Egypt and Mesopotamia , organized beekeeping developed around 2400 BC. The use of dwellings made especially for bees in the form of hives and inverters varied greatly from region to region. Ceramic vessels that served as beehives are known from the Greek and Roman times, but the 3000 year old beekeeping was discovered by Tel Rechov in Israel in 2007 . From ancient Egypt there are picture descriptions of honey extraction that are similar to the finds. The medicinal importance of bee products was recognized as early as ancient times. Greek and Roman authors described the sophisticated beekeeping of their time.

Archaeological excavations from the area of ​​what is now Germany reveal evidence of beekeeping for the first time in the period around 500 BC. Numerous bee regulations have been handed down from the early Middle Ages . There were no honeybees in America. Stingless bees like Melipona beecheii and Melipona yucatanica were used intensively by the Maya in pre-Columbian honey production. European colonization spread the Western honey bee all over the world. In continental Europe, beekeeping developed in two areas: Forest beekeeping ( Zeidlerei ) and basket beekeeping . The first beekeeping guilds were founded in Germany in the 14th century . Professional beekeeping started in the 16th century on the Lüneburg Heath . The beginning of modern beekeeping, as well as the complete abandonment of forest beekeeping, can be identified at the turn of the 19th century. Since then, the results of numerous scientific discoveries and findings have been implemented in beekeeping.

Large scale hike with colonies of bees in the US on a truck trailer

With the spread of industrial agriculture since the 20th century also held in beekeeping in some areas of the factory farming and intensive livestock feed, such. B. with large beekeeper Leopold Gombocz (1875–1943) or today with some migrant beekeepers in the USA or the huge almond tree plantations there .

The historical picture of the beekeeper

The beekeepers , pen drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (around 1568)
The bee friend (1863) by Hans Thoma
Beehives made of wood were more common in the past, the different colored approach boards are supposed to make orientation easier for the bees

The beekeeper used to be seen as a clear specialist whose knowledge and skills one could not do without. In contrast to other manual trades, the work could not be briefly handed over to temporary workers or harvest workers, as one had to know the peculiarities of the peoples and their loss could only be replaced with difficulty and at great expense. An experienced beekeeper immediately saw the condition of his bee colonies, but was unable to convey this extensive knowledge in a short time. Therefore beekeepers were seen as loners, whose actual work was never really known. This is also because buzzing bees keep inexperienced spectators at bay. Since a stung beekeeper shows no pain, but continues to work calmly, he was also considered to be hardened or fearless. Since the activity can still be carried out in old age, beekeeping was often transferred to the elderly. Beekeepers have been associated with age, wisdom and experience, but also with eccentricity.

This picture has receded into the background with industrial sugar production at the beginning of the 19th century, the later import of honey and the consequent declining importance of the beekeeping profession in rural areas. Today the beekeeper is more of a self-determined farmer who works in nature and can freely divide his working hours.

Tools and equipment

Various today's beekeeping tools and implements

Beekeeping devices are machines, tools and devices used by beekeepers to work on colonies and to obtain bee products, which can be assigned to different work areas:

Beekeeping products

  • Today honey is the main product of most beekeeping. Fewer and fewer beekeepers are able to keep themselves by selling honey alone. Therefore, more and more bee products are being offered. In the course of increasing awareness of ecological relationships in nature , many beekeepers now see themselves as conservationists . With their bee colonies, they also ensure the pollination of many wild plants.
  • Beeswax is not only used for candles , but is also used in care products and cosmetics. The pharmaceutical industry still needs beeswax as a raw material. In food production, for example, beeswax is used as a coating agent E901 .
  • Pollen is used as a high quality protein product as a dietary supplement . Other ingredients are enzymes , amino acids and a high content of vitamin B . A total of around 100 biological active substances is assumed. Pure pollen tastes relatively harsh (bitter), which is why it is often ground in the frozen state and then offered mixed with honey. Due to its ingredients, it should be consumed relatively fresh, if possible within six months.
  • Royal jelly is the special feed juice that only queens are fed with. It is produced by the worker bees and has the effect that a queen becomes significantly larger and has a much longer lifespan than the worker bees who are not given this feed. The effect on humans is so far controversial. This is also due to the fact that not all of the substances in this juice have yet been fully deciphered. Royal jelly is said to have a rejuvenating effect on the human body.
  • Propolis (also called putty resin) is considered one of the most powerful naturally occurring antibiotics and antifungal agents . It was and is still used in natural medicine as a wound remedy . The composition can, however, vary widely, so that approval under the law on medicinal products can never be expected. Another disadvantage of propolis can be that a certain percentage of people are allergic to it, which is why self-medication (without prior testing) is warned.
  • Bee venom is used, among other things, to treat inflammatory joint diseases. It has a strong effect on blood circulation. In the event of an overdose, the patient believes that they have actually been stung. The treatment site becomes red and hot and swells like a sting. The only relief is permanent cooling. The body releases cortisol from the adrenal cortex as a result of the poison . Anti-inflammatory measures can thus be achieved for many rheumatic complaints.

City beekeeping

Detail of the apiary on the roof terrace

A special form of classical beekeeping in rural areas is the city beekeeping. As centers of urban beekeeping (urban beekeeping) are Berlin , London , New York , Paris , Tokyo , Toronto , Vancouver and Washington, DC In addition to the German cities of Hamburg and Munich also provides the Ruhr area represents a refuge for urban beekeeping. Urban beekeeping is one of the sub-forms of urban agriculture .

The French Jean Paucton (Paris), the American David Graves ( Manhattan , New York) and the German Marc-Wilhelm Kohfink (Berlin) are considered pioneers of urban beekeeping . The Parisian theater decorator Paucton has been keeping colonies of bees on the roof of his workplace, the Opéra Garnier , since 1985 . His bees fly to the parks of the French capital. Former bus driver Graves has kept several colonies for years despite a ban on beekeeping in New York. The social scientist and business journalist Kohfink has been keeping bees in Berlin since April 1999 and trains around 20 city beekeepers every year in courses. The German Bee Journal has been looking after several bee colonies on the roof of its editorial office in Berlin since 2009. The Berlin hums initiative has existed in Berlin since 2011 , with colonies of bees being set up at 15 representative locations in the city. These include building roofs such as that of the Berlin Cathedral , the Berlin House of Representatives and the North Canteen of the Humboldt University . In Hamburg, the number of beekeepers in the city grew from 300 in 2010 to over 1000 in 2018.

Some long-established city clubs, such as the Berlin Beekeeping Association Neukölln 1923 e. V. or the beekeeping association Hamburg Rechtes Alsterufer , founded in 1934 , prove that urban beekeeping is not a modern trend but has a long tradition. In Zurich who was city beekeepers according Brunscher guild constitution , from 1336 to 1798 Constitution of the Kingdom of town and later city-state, as guild profession .

Balcony and garden plants offer bees a costume for the whole season

There is no shortage of bees in the city. In addition to parks, cemeteries and avenues, house gardens, green roofs, overgrown plots of land, traffic islands and balcony plants can also be used as traditional costumes. The city's climate, which is on average two to three degrees Celsius warmer, is beneficial for bees as heat-loving animals; they travel earlier in spring and longer in autumn; their food ranges from crocuses in spring to goldenrod in November. In contrast to rural beekeeping, there are fewer monocultures in the flora of the cities, so that beekeepers and their people are less dependent on rapeseed and various fruit blossoms. In addition to the lower feed pressure, this means that the harvest quantities of urban beekeepers are significantly higher than that of land beekeepers. According to statistics from the German Beekeeping Association, Berlin city beekeepers harvested up to 47 kilograms of honey per colony per year, in Hamburg it is 40 kilograms. Berlin and Hamburg are thus at the top nationwide.

City honey is low in residues, which means that pollution from fine dust and pollutants has not yet been determined. In the countryside, however, pesticides are a problem. The honey is of high quality and is particularly aromatic due to the pollen mixture instead of monoculture. Keeping them is easier, as losses due to parasite infestation or a drop in temperature are rather subordinate.

Beekeeping in German-speaking countries

There are around 170,000 beekeepers in German-speaking countries. With an average farm size of 10 to 16 colonies, most beekeepers are hobby beekeepers. The legal regulations, training, beekeeping practice, bee density, beekeeping density, etc. differ greatly in the German-speaking countries:

Beekeeping in Germany

According to the German Beekeeping Association, Germany currently has around 130,000 beekeepers with around 870,000 bee colonies . Around 95% of beekeepers in Germany are recreational beekeepers. Few do beekeeping as a sideline , and only about 500 are professional beekeepers . Hybrids of the Carinthian bee (Carnica) have been used predominantly since the time after the Second World War . However , there are also locations for the Buckfast bee and, since 2015, for the dark European bee, which was originally native to Germany .

Beekeeping in Austria

The Austrian Beekeeping Association is assuming 27,231 beekeepers with around 280,000 colonies for 2014. The average farm size (number of colonies per beekeeper) is 10 colonies.

The Carinthian bee (Carnica) is mainly used as a honey bee . In the Austrian federal states of Vienna , Lower Austria , Styria and Carinthia , only the keeping or breeding of Carinthian bees with their associated strains and lines is generally permitted. The keeping of other “pure-bred” bees there requires a permit.

Beekeeping in Liechtenstein and Switzerland

The Switzerland has around 19,500 beekeepers with about 195,000 bee colonies. The average farm size (number of colonies per beekeeper) is 10 colonies.

On the north side of the Alps in Switzerland, carnica bees are predominantly used for beekeeping, and in Ticino with ligustica bees . The Association of Swiss Mellifera Bee Friends (VSMB) is committed to the conservation and breeding of dark bees . In Liechtenstein , there were, according to the Liechtenstein beekeepers association in 2002 against 82 beekeepers with 943 nations.


Beekeeping diseases

  • A small percentage of people are allergic to bee stings . Therefore, an allergy test by a doctor is recommended before the serious start of beekeeping, which is often required before the start of a three-year training as an animal owner. Although there is also the possibility of desensitization here , hobby, necessary costs of immunotherapy and your own health and safety should be weighed against each other.
  • Beekeeping is a physically demanding job. A honey frame to be harvested can weigh up to 30 kilograms , depending on the type of hive and mode of operation. The strain on the back occasionally leads to herniated discs .

Bee diseases

Like other animals, bees also suffer from diseases, for which there is more under the category: bee disease . The most significant bee diseases because of the severity of their effects are:

  • American foulbrood (AFB for short, also known as "Malignant foulbrood") is a disease that has to be reported to the veterinary office (notifiable).
  • Varroosis (formerly varroosis ) is caused by the varroa mite and damages both bees and bee brood.
  • Nosemosis (formerly nosematosis) is caused by a parasite and destroys the bees' intestinal wall.
  • The small hive beetle , originally native to Africa as a bee pest, has spread within a few years via the USA to Canada, Egypt and Australia. It damages the colonies by eating brood, pollen and honey and also contaminates the colonies and thus also the honey with its excrement. It has not yet arrived in Germany, but scientists firmly assume that it will be more widespread.
  • European foulbrood

Common misunderstandings

There are often misunderstandings in the population about beekeeping, some of which relate to the work processes and some to an ignorance of the behavioral biology of bees.

Sugar feeding

Sugar feeding

Since the honey - and with it the winter supply - is harvested by the beekeeper, the beekeeper must provide appropriate replacement in order to prevent the colony from starving in winter. This substitute is usually supplied by sugar (also in the form of sugar syrup) after the honey harvest. It is not about trying to stretch the honey with sugar, but about providing a substitute supply for the wintering of the colony. It is also wrong that the bees live exclusively on sugar in winter, because in addition to the honey, the bees also store pollen in the honeycombs, which is important for the protein and mineral supply of the bees. This pollen is not removed during spinning.

Winter feeding

The beekeeper does not feed his bees in winter, even if there is talk of winter feeding . The colonies are fed from late summer to early autumn. Below about 10 degrees Celsius, the bees can no longer take in food and store it as winter supply.


Colored apiary in Saxony

Today bees are kept free-standing in magazine hives all over the world . Particularly in the German-speaking countries, there are occasionally hives that have been treated in apiaries or beehives . The individual peoples are often in extreme proximity to one another. Many beekeepers paint the apiary or approach boards in color with the intention of making it easier for the bees to find their own state. When looking for their own entrance hole, bees do not only use colors as a guide. They also orientate themselves significantly to the spatial environment and via their own so-called stick odor that surrounds their state.

"Soothing" smoke

One misconception is that the beekeeper uses smoke to calm the bees. In fact, the smoke only reduces the bees' willingness to sting. The activity of the bees increases significantly, however, they look for the honey-filled cells, crawl into them and fill their honey stomachs. All smoked bees participate in this, regardless of age. Smoked drones flee the stick and do not return. This behavior can be explained by the fact that a threat from fire cannot be prevented by defense (stabbing); In the event of a forest fire, the bees would only have to escape from the hive, which would actually occur if the smoke were to be accompanied by an increase in temperature . The workers' filled honey stomachs are used in an attempt to rescue them. The beekeeper takes advantage of this behavior of the bees to enable calmer and sting-free work on the colony. The bees are so distracted and busy that they can usually be touched with bare fingers without danger.

See also


  • Werner Gekeler: Honey beekeeping . Ulmer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-8001-4398-4 .
  • Lieselotte Gettert: My bee year . Ulmer, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-8001-7243-7 .
  • Edmund Herold, Karl Weiß: New beekeeping school . Ehrenwirth, Munich 1965, 1999, ISBN 3-431-02739-3 .
  • Marc-Wilhelm Kohfink: Bees keep bees in the city . Ulmer, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-8001-6712-8 .
  • Franz Lampeitl: Keeping bees . Ulmer Verlag, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-8001-7075-2 .
  • Matthias Lehnherr: Beekeeper book . 5th edition. Aristaios-Verlag, Basel 2004, ISBN 3-9520322-0-4 .
  • Gerhard Liebig : Simply beekeeping. Guide to beekeeping . 3rd, revised edition, self-published, Bochum 2011, ISBN 978-3980356862 .
  • Rudolf Moosbeckhofer, Josef Bretschko: Natural beekeeping . Stocker , Graz 1996, ISBN 3-7020-0740-7 .
  • Georg Petrausch: Beekeepers in the city. Kosmos, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-440-12042-2 .
  • Friedrich Pohl : 1 times 1 of the beekeeper . 2nd, updated and expanded edition, Kosmos, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-440-11710-1 .
  • Armin Spürgin: The honey bee - from bee state to beekeeping . Ulmer, Stuttgart, 1996, ISBN 3-8001-6852-9 .
  • Jürgen Tautz, Helga R. Heilmann: The honeybee phenomenon . Spectrum Academic Publishing House 2007. ISBN 978-3-8274-1845-6 .
  • Karl Weiß: The weekend beekeeper - a school for beekeeping with magazines . Ehrenwirth, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-431-02275-8 .
  • Enoch Zander , Friedrich K. Böttcher: Keeping and breeding the bee . Ulmer, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-8001-7419-7 .
  • Meyer's Large Conversation Lexicon . 6th edition. Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1909 ( [accessed on May 20, 2019] Lexicon entry "Beekeeping").


Web links

Wikisource: Honeybees  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Beekeeper  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Introduction to Beekeeping  - Learning and Teaching Materials
Wiktionary: Beekeeper  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations


Individual evidence

  1. Dr. Hermann Pechhacker: The global bee trade and its consequences . ( MS Word file, 35 kB ).
  2. André Wermelinger: Pilot project to reintroduce the Zeidlerei in Switzerland. ( Memento of September 3, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Project description, version 1.0, January 11, 2014, online at, accessed on January 29, 2017 (PDF; 978 kB).
  3. BMELV funds the development of a new technology for honey bee keeping. ( Memento of March 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) In: Press release No. 058 of April 2, 2009. Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, online at, accessed on January 29, 2017.
  4. DJ Son, JW Lee, YH Lee, HS Song, CK Lee, JT Hong: Therapeutic application of anti-arthritis, pain-releasing, and anti-cancer effects of bee venom and its constituent compounds. In: Pharmacology & Therapeutics . Volume 115, No. 2, August 2007, pp. 246-270, ISSN  0163-7258 , doi : 10.1016 / j.pharmthera.2007.04.004 , PMID 17555825 (review).
  5. ^ Katharina Finke: Swarming bees - Urban beekeepers. In: Friday . No. 29, July 26, 2011, p. 27, on, accessed on February 10, 2017.
  6. House of World Cultures. ( Memento from February 11, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) On, accessed on February 10, 2017.
  7. Sebastian Spiewok: About the publishing bees. Deutsches Bienen-Journal , June 12, 2014, accessed on February 10, 2017 .
  8. Berlin hums website , accessed on February 10, 2017.
  9. Annika Lasarzik: Beekeeper: Golden Times . In: The time . July 29, 2018, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed January 28, 2019]).
  10. ^ Marc-Wilhelm Kohfink: Bees keep bees in the city. Ulmer, Stuttgart 2010. ISBN 978-3-8001-6712-8 .
  11. German beekeeping at a glance on, accessed on May 2, 2018.
  12. Figures, data, facts on, as of December 31, 2016, accessed on May 2, 2018.
  13. DER SPIEGEL 3/2009, p. 123
  14. Statistics 2015 - 2017 at, accessed on November 9, 2018.
  15. see e.g. B. §7 (1) Vienna Law on Keeping and Breeding Bees ( )
  16. Peter Fluri, Peter Schenk, Rainer Frick: Beekeeping in Switzerland. (PDF; 550 KB) Center for Bee Research, February 2004, accessed on September 26, 2016 .