Beyond simply supplying us with honey and beeswax, beekeepers and their bees also play a vital role in ensuring many of our fruit and nut trees are successfully pollinated. To have a better understanding of the world of beekeeping, we must first understand the specialties within beekeeping.
With respect to honey production and pollination, beekeepers can keep anywhere from a few bee hives in their apiary, hobby beekeepers, to several thousand which are generally commercial beekeepers. Honey is produced only by honeybees. Bumble bees are used primarily for the pollination of plants and trees. Since bumble bees do not overwinter the whole colony, they do not need to stockpile honey and therefore are not a good source of honey.
Apiarists do not keep their bees contained. In fact, the bees are free to leave, swarm and forage at will. They usually return to the hive because the containers the beekeeper provides offer cool, dry shelter.
A colony cannot exist without a queen. The livelihood of a beekeeper depends directly upon the health of his or her queen bees. In a hive, the queen is responsible for producing offspring. She will only leave the hive to mate. The mating process will ultimately kill the drone with whom she mates. Drones that don't mate are generally expelled by the colony and since they are unable to forage and produce honey, they die from the cold or starvation.
The equipment associated with beekeeping is relatively simple. Depending upon the size of the apiary, the basic equipment consists of protective clothing to prevent bee stings, a smoker, which calms the bees, and a box with removable frames in which the bees can develop a colony. The removable frames also allow for easy inspection of the nest to ensure the colony isn't being killed off by disease.