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Apiculture and Beekeeping

The Breadth of Bees...

Apiculture is the science of raising or maintaining colonies of bees and their hives (beekeeping). Known primarily for their pollinating activities, our nation’s 4,000+ native bee species also produce honey, wax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and even venom – all of which are collected and sold for their nutritional and medicinal purposes by farmers and beekeepers. 


Bees in Agriculture

Archaeological evidence shows us that the relationship between humans and bees is at least 17,000 years old (Pager, 1976), with the earliest depictions of human honey hunting and harvesting of bee products occurring 4,000 years before our earliest systems of domesticated agriculture; but it wasn’t until nearly 14,000 years later that we find the first evidence of sophisticated bee colony management as part of an agricultural system (Bloch et al., 2010, PNAS).

With more than 4,000 native bees in North America, honey bees take much of the spotlight in agriculture - but they are not native to our country. They were imported from Europe in the 17th century.

Early USDA Beekeeping and Apiculture

The USDA began its research on bees in 1891 at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Now there are many USDA-related research facilities as well as other federal agencies supporting bees.  (See Federal Bee Research Products below).

Interested in some basic information from the earlier years? Take a look at the documents below.

  • Beekeeping. 1905. F. Benton (In charge of Apicultural Investigations). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmer’s Bulletin No. 59 (revised)
  • The Rearing of Queen Bees. 1905. Phillips, E.F. (Expert Apiculturist). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bureau of Entomology Bulletin No. 55
  • Beekeeping in the United States. 1980. Martin, E. C, E. Oertel, N. P. Nye, et al. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Handbook No. 335 (revised)


Discover digitized, historical materials in the NAL's Internet Archive Collection using these queries:

Dynamic Queries for Apiculture Content at the Library

The History of Honey Bee Culture

This online exhibit at NAL highlights historical resources from the earliest published works on honeybee husbandry, including items from Thomas Hill (1572) and Charles Butler (1609).

Resources for Starting a Hive or Bee Colony

Thinking of Keeping a Hive?

Interested in learning how to build and maintain a beehive? There are resources available to help — for both the curious and the committed! Get started here with authoritative publications.

General Guidelines and Foundational Information

Expert and Extension Assistance

Federal, State, and University Extension personnel are available to provide guidance, information, and technical services. Reach out to your local offices for expertise and visit their websites for additional resources and tools.

Find Technical Services Near You

Important Considerations - Laws and Regulations for Bees

Each state and/or county in the United States has laws and regulations that pertain to raising and caring for bees. These laws are designed to protect bees from diseases and pesticide misuse, protect communities, and monitor bee colonies. Contact your State Department of Agriculture and Local Government offices for details on zoning and permitting of bee colonies, apiary regulations and laws, and information on hive inspection requirements.

Federal Bee Research Products

Reports and Articles

Data Sets, Software, and Modeling Tools

  • Ag Data Commons

    Access open data relevant to USDA-funded agricultural research on beekeeping or apiculture.


    Access open data from across Federal agencies on both native and honey bees. Multiple formats available for viewing and download.

USDA Bee Research and Programs

USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program

The program provides species identification tools, thousands of images, and information on the bee-plant interaction.

USDA Honey Dashboard []

Visit the Honey Dashboard to learn about production, consumer demand,  imports, and more in a visual format.


Beescape Online Mapping System

USDA and multi-institute partners.

Access the Beescape Map Tool to view pollinator habitat scores in your area. Do you know the landscape that will promote your bees’ health? 

Prefer a Video?

Scientists strive to improve resilience to pathogens, parasites, poor nutrition, and pesticides in honey bee populations. The ARS Bee Lab in Baton Rouge, LA, has identified a genetic link to reduced colony defensiveness and predict this may improve relationships with the humans that manage them.

Scientists from Project Apis m. and the USDA discuss breeding of bees that are naturally resistant to the Varroa parasite. This pest causes huge losses in the bee industry and having natural resistances precludes the need for applied insecticides.

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