On their face, there really isn’t much difference. Technically speaking, a beekeeper is an apiarist, an apiarist is a beekeeper. However, there are always distinctions made in language based on the times, term appropriation, even coining new terms based on existing ones.
At BBE-Tech Apiary Services, I make the distinction between beekeepers and apiarists as the difference between hobbyists and those who use bees and beekeeping to make a living. Whether that be offering products and services as a professional or keeping bees to supplement as part of a homesteading lifestyle.
Whereas the hobbyist beekeeper has no “necessary” goals or objectives to their beekeeping. It may just be something to do, a way to gain something else such as to support another hobby or interest like gardening, or to get wax for craft-making, etc… They do it because they want to, not because they need to. As such, they are hobbyists and beekeepers.
In contrast, the apiarist, by my operational perspective, is someone who is involved in beekeeping as part of a job, career or lifestyle in which their means of making a living is partially or entirely dependent on their beekeeping. There are many forms this can take and more often than not, the apiarist will have something to do with multiple areas, not just one.
For example, a professional apiarist may specialize or focus on offering pollination services and large-scale honey production as those two things often go hand in hand. They may frequently be involved in raising bees to sell to other beekeepers as that also is very often directly related to the first two endeavors.
Another professional apiarist might specialize in live bee removals from buildings and trees and other areas. Consequently, they may find themselves also involved in raising and selling bees to other beekeepers.
Yet other apiarists may focus on “fixed” honey production. This means they also run or have farmland their bees pollinate but are never moved off of. They stay on location and what is planted around them is selected specifically for the honey producing qualities. These apiarists may also be involved in harvesting beeswax and propolis to sell to craft persons and medical/pharmaceutical businesses as well. They are often also involved in being educators of new beekeepers.
In all these cases, apiarists have a dependency on their beekeeping to make a profit or sustainable amounts of harvest-able hive products to pay their bills, put food on the table, gas in the vehicle, etc….
I personally focus on working with those I identify as Apiarists to help them to be successful in their efforts at being profitable and sustainable. Hobbyist beekeepers, relatively, enjoy a luxury of an abundance of resources and support that can be available to them at low or no cost so long as they have the time to wait for meetings to happens, classes to be offered and volunteer mentors to have free time. All of which are well and good as they should be.
However, the apiarists, the people trying to make something of their beekeeping as a means to make a living. They may not have the luxury of time to wait for something or someone. They often have to find assistance or support exactly when they need it or profit can be lost, resources wasted and critical opportunities are missed.
So my specialty is to offer support to the apiarists out there. Whether their efforts are only a part of their income or living or entirely depended upon. I offer support, resources, assistance, education and training on their schedule, when they need it, customized to fit their particular need and methods.
That, my friends, is the distinction I make between beekeepers and apiarists. Nothing more and nothing less.
Enjoy your bees.