Beekeeping is becoming a popular hobby and career for people who want to produce their own honey while supporting the decreasing honeybee population. There are dangers and hazards to avoid, however, and each state has requirements that beekeepers must meet in order to have healthy and productive hives. The rules and regulations for beekeeping vary between states, but there are several sources which can help you comply with your state's specific requirements and become a registered or licensed beekeeper.
The first place to begin your licensing process is to visit your state's Department of Agriculture website. Not all states require beekeepers to be licensed, but all states do require a registration and inspection process, which is very similar to the licensing process. Type "apiary license" or "bee keeping license" into the search feature on the Department of Agriculture's website to find information on your state’s licensing or registration process. "Apiary" is the professional term for a place where bees are kept, and it is the common term used by the government.
This search should result in information on either registering your bees or obtaining a beekeeper's license through your state’s department of agriculture. The forms tend to be downloadable in PDF and only one or two pages long. Generally, they require information on where you will be keeping your bees and how many bees will be in your apiary. The fee for registering or licensing tends to be nominal and based upon the number of bee colonies you own. With most of these forms you simply fill them out and mail them to the department with a check.
Some states do not provide the registration or licensing forms on their websites, and instead require you to request an apiary inspection by email or phone. Contact information for the inspection office will be provided on the Department of Agriculture's website. Once your inspector has passed your apiary, he will provide you with the required form and you will fill it out and give it back to him with the required fee.
If you have trouble finding the necessary information on your state's department of agriculture website, there are some other organizations that are happy to help you comply with your state's regulations. One of the best national sources for state regulations is the Apiary Inspectors of America. Their website is in the Resources section below, and they have a state by state listing of all of the apiary inspectors in the United States with their contact information. Contacting your state's inspector is a direct way to get all of information you will need on registering, licensing, inspection and beekeeping in general.
Further additional sources of information and assistance are the American Beekeeping Federation and the National Honey Board. These are great national organizations that assist beekeepers in everything from complying with regulations, to marketing and apiary health. They also offer a lot of local links to help you connect with other beekeepers in your area.