Beekeeping is an important part of Slovenian culture and tradition, and the country is known as one of the most bee-friendly places in the world. With over 10,000 beekeepers and more than 180,000 beehives, Slovenia has a thriving beekeeping industry that contributes significantly to its economy.
Slovenia is known as one of the most bee-friendly countries in the world, with over 10,000 beekeepers and more than 180,000 beehives.
The tradition of beekeeping in Slovenia dates back to the 16th century, with the first written records of beekeeping in the country. Today, the Carniolan honey bee, also known as the Carniolan gray bee, is the most common bee species in Slovenia. These bees are known for their gentle nature and high productivity, making them a favorite among beekeepers.
The Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica, Pollmann) is a subspecies of the western honey bee. The Carniolan honey bee is native to Slovenia, southern Austria, and parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.
Beekeeping is a thriving industry in Slovenia
Beekeeping is not just a hobby in Slovenia but a thriving industry. It is a source of pride for many Slovenians, who see it as an important part of their cultural heritage. Many traditional Slovenian stories, songs, and sayings feature bees and honey, highlighting the important role that beekeeping has played in the country’s history and culture.
Slovenian honey is highly valued and sought after, with many varieties available, including acacia, linden, chestnut, and fir honey. The country’s honey production and beekeeping-related activities contribute significantly to its economy.
Furthermore, beekeeping has implications for the health of the population. Bees are important pollinators of crops, and their role in pollination is critical to maintaining food security. The decline in bee populations due to factors such as pesticide use and habitat loss has raised concerns about the impact on food production and the potential for increased food prices.
Apitherapy: Health and Healing from the Bees
In addition, beekeeping has other health benefits for the population. Honey is known for its medicinal properties and is used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. In Slovenia, honey is also used in cosmetics, such as creams and lotions, due to its moisturizing and healing properties. But also in traditional medicine, as apitherapy is becoming more popular every year.
As Nika Pengal the owner of the apitherapy brand Gospodična Medična from the small town of Domžale explains, apitherapy is a complementary medical practice that utilizes bee products such as honey, propolis, royal jelly, pollen, and venom to promote human health. This therapy has been used for thousands of years, with the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese all having documented its use.
Bee venom therapy, which involves the controlled injection of bee venom, has been found to be effective in treating a range of ailments, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain. The venom contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, making it an effective alternative to traditional pain medications.
Apitherapy is a complementary medical practice that can be used alongside traditional medicine to enhance its effectiveness. For example, bee venom therapy can be used in combination with physical therapy and medication to manage chronic pain. Similarly, honey can be used alongside antibiotics to treat infections.
Photo: Nika Pengal in her apitherapy practice Gospodična Medična
The average person in Slovenia consumes almost a kilo of honey a year
Bees as important players that keep our tables full
Beekeeping is a traditional agricultural activity in Slovenia. In each of Slovenia’s statistical regions, there were more than 2 000 bee colonies on agricultural holdings in 2020. In total, Slovenian beekeepers produced a record 1 300 tonnes of honey.
Bees are essential for agriculture because they play a vital role in pollinating crops. When bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, they inadvertently transfer pollen from the male to the female parts of the flower, which enables the plant to produce fruit and seeds. This process of pollination is essential for the reproduction of many crops, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
As Mr. Boštjan Noč, the president of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association (Čebelarska Zveza Slovenije) has stated; “Without bees, many of our favorite foods would become scarce or disappear altogether”. In fact, it’s estimated that bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat. Therefore, the health and well-being of bee populations are crucial for the sustainability of agriculture and food production.
Bees are responsible for every third spoonful of food in our mouths!
In Slovenia, honey production fluctuates from year to year, depending on environmental factors that affect bee life and production. In 2020, we produced around 1 300 tonnes, a below-average harvest. Taking into account the consumption in the same year, which was around 2 500 tonnes – an average of almost one kilogram of honey per capita – this means that the self-sufficiency rate was 67%. The highest honey production was in 2001 – around 2 550 tonnes. However, the highest level of self-sufficiency was recorded in 2000, when it was 112%.
Unfortunately lately bees are declining in numbers. One of the primary causes is habitat loss and fragmentation, as urbanization and intensive agriculture practices have destroyed or disrupted natural bee habitats. Additionally, the use of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture has been linked to the decline in bee populations.
World Bee Day on May 20th – Birthday of the pioneer of beekeeping Anton Janša
Slovenia celebrates World Bee Day on May 20th, a day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the importance of bees as pollinators and beekeeping for human survival. World Bee Day is dedicated to an important pioneer of beekeeping. Anton Janša, who pioneered modern beekeeping in his native Slovenia in the 18th century, was one of the first to recognize the importance of bees to the world’s environment. No one embodies the Slovenian beekeeping tradition more than Anton Janša. Born in 1734, Janša is considered a pioneer of modern apiculture and a great expert in the field.
This day is an opportunity to celebrate the vital role that bees play in our ecosystem and to recognize the hard work and dedication of Slovenian beekeepers.
Beekeeping and cultural heritage of Slovenia
Beekeeping is an important part of Slovenian cultural heritage, dating back to the 16th century. Slovenian beekeepers have developed unique beekeeping practices and traditions, which have been passed down from generation to generation.
One of the distinctive features of Slovenian beekeeping is the use of the AŽ hive. This hive design is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and is a distinctive feature of Slovenian beekeeping. The AŽ hive is a type of beehive that is widely used in Slovenia and is known for its unique design and features.
The AŽ hive is made from wood and has a sloping roof, with frames that can be easily removed for honey extraction. It was developed by Anton Žnidaršič, a Slovenian beekeeper, in the early 20th century. He was a prominent figure in Slovenian beekeeping. He was born in 1873 in the village of Brezje, in the Gorenjska region of Slovenia. Žnidaršič was interested in beekeeping from an early age and became a professional beekeeper in 1897.
In the early 20th century, Žnidaršič began experimenting with different beehive designs, in an effort to create a hive that was more efficient and easier to use. The AŽ hive is designed to be simple, efficient, and easy to use. It consists of several wooden frames that can be easily removed, allowing beekeepers to inspect the hive and extract honey. He eventually developed the AŽ hive, which quickly became popular among Slovenian beekeepers.
The AŽ hive is now recognized as an important part of Slovenian cultural heritage and has been designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is widely used by Slovenian beekeepers, and its unique design and features have influenced beekeeping practices in other countries as well.
Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis mellifera carnica)
Slovenian beekeepers also have a deep appreciation for the Carniolan honey bee, also known as the Carniolan gray bee. This bee species is native to Slovenia and is known for its gentle nature and high productivity, making it a favorite among beekeepers. Slovenian beekeepers have developed unique techniques for working with these bees, which have been refined over many years.
Slovenian proverb: “Without bees, there is no honey.”
Beekeeping has also influenced Slovenian culture in other ways. Many Slovenian stories, songs, and sayings feature bees and honey, highlighting the important role that beekeeping has played in the country’s history and culture. For example, there is a Slovenian proverb that says, “Without bees, there is no honey.” This proverb reflects the important role that bees and beekeeping have played in the country’s economy and culture.
Enlarged model (1:100) of the Carniolan Honey Bee, also exhibited at Expo Dubai 2020, from a personal archive of Nina Oman.
In addition, Slovenian beekeepers have established beekeeping museums and educational centers, which promote the history and culture of beekeeping in Slovenia. These museums showcase the traditional practices and equipment used in Slovenian beekeeping, providing a glimpse into the country’s rich beekeeping heritage.
Beekeeping has also become an important part of Slovenia’s national identity. The country celebrates World Bee Day on May 20th, a day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the importance of bees and beekeeping for human survival. The celebration of World Bee Day highlights the importance of beekeeping to Slovenian culture and reinforces the country’s commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly beekeeping practices.
Beekeeping has significant economic implications for Slovenia, contributing to employment, income, and export revenue. Additionally, beekeeping has important implications for the health of the population, ensuring that there is a steady supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables and providing access to natural remedies and cosmetics. As such, we can conclude that beekeeping is an important industry that supports the economic and social development of Slovenia.
For more information and requests to contact representatives of the honey industry in Slovenia for commercial purposes, write to the author of this article or click here to contact us!
Here are some facts about Slovenia and beekeeping:
- Beekeeping is an important part of Slovenian culture and tradition. The first written records of beekeeping in Slovenia date back to the 16th century.
- Slovenia is known as one of the most bee-friendly countries in the world, with over 10,000 beekeepers and more than 180,000 beehives.
- The Carniolan honey bee, also known as the Carniolan gray bee, is the most common bee species in Slovenia. It is known for its gentle nature and high productivity.
- The honey produced in Slovenia is highly valued and sought after, with many varieties available, including acacia, linden, chestnut, and fir honey.
- The traditional Slovenian beehive, known as the AŽ hive, is unique in its design and is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
- Beekeeping is not just a hobby in Slovenia, but a thriving industry. Honey production and beekeeping-related activities contribute significantly to the country’s economy.
- The Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association, founded in 1873, is the oldest beekeeping association in the world.
- Slovenian beekeepers have a strong commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly practices, with many of them using organic methods and avoiding the use of pesticides.
- Slovenia celebrates World Bee Day on May 20th, a day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the importance of bees and beekeeping for human survival.
- Beekeeping has a special place in Slovenian folklore, with many traditional stories, songs, and sayings featuring bees and honey.