Honey and Keeping Bees in Slovenia
Beehive Truck in the countryside of Slovenia:
Hand painted beehives from Slovenia circa 1800’s:
Samples of beehive painted drawers depicting naive daily life and religious scenes:
When I first saw the traditional beehives that beekeepers in Slovenia use to house their bees, I was in awe.
In most places around the world, beehives are kept in wooden boxes, which open from the top.
In some places they paint the wooden boxes in bright colors, to attract the bees.
In Slovenia, a traditional beehive is built like a beautiful cabinet, with many drawers and with a roof, to keep it dry.
The bees create their colonies inside those cabinet drawers, and the fronts of the drawers are elaborately painted with either religious scenes, or scenes from daily life.
The beautiful naive paintings were usually done by professional or semi professional artists, but some also served as church painters, while others were entirely self-taught.
The paintings were done to identify the owners of the beehives, and to bless the production of honey.
In the small Medieval town of Radovljica on our way to the Slovenian Alps, we visited a unique beekeeping and honey museum.
It is a wonderful museum filled with items related to beekeeping collected from all over Slovenia.
We learnt so much about bees and their inmate wisdom.
There are male and female bees.
The males are called “Drones” and they do not work on the beehive or on the production of honey.
Their job is to inseminate the one queen when she is ready.
The beehive is run by sterile female worker bees.
The bees have a very specific assigned task within their colony, based on their age.
A young, newly-hatched bee is assigned the job of cleaning the cells of the hive.
Later she will graduate to all other jobs, until she dies within four to six weeks.
There are specific jobs like collecting nectar from flowers, accepting the nectar from the collecting bees, storing the nectar in the cells, sterilizing the cells, building the wax cells from wax that is secreted from their stomachs, etc.
The bees clean one another, since they cannot use their legs to clean themselves.
When a navigating bee finds a new source of food, like a flowering tree or vine or a flower field, she returns to the colony to convey its location to the others.
She does an excited dance which explains to the others the exact location of the new food source.
If the food source is far from the beehive, she will dance in a figure 8 shape, and if it is very near, she will dance in a circle.
A queen is assigned the role of laying all the eggs and populating the entire colony.
It is a role she will keep for life.
Each bee knows and learns to identify its own colony, even if many beehives are placed very close to each other.
Slovenia was labelled the “heart and soul of beekeeping” in Europe by the head of the International Federation of Beekeepers.
We tried local honey in the places we visited, and I can say that my favorite is the amber colored Chestnut honey.
It is fragrant, aromatic and not so sweet.
In our travels around the area, I make sure I have a supply of lemonade, which I make from local apple cider vinegar diluted with water and sweetened with a little chestnut honey.
In the beekeeping museum, we also saw creative beehives made from carved wood in the shape of a church, a castle, a dog, a lion, a soldier, a large man and a few others.
I am adding to this post images of the beehive drawers, painted so very beautifully, and of the wooden unique sculptural beehives.
The wax left after extracting the honey using a press made for that purpose, was used for making very beautiful candles.
The candles are made from pouring the melted wax into hand carved wooden molds with lovely designs.
The candles burn with a lovely honey scent.
One day on our drive around the country, we came upon a beekeeping truck.
It was painted in bright colors and it was swarming with bees.
By now, I knew that not all bee are at a stage in which they even developed their venom glands, so jules stopped the car on the narrow road and I got out to take some photos.
I thought to myself that this beekeeping truck is a genius idea.
The beekeeper can just park it in the countryside near some flowering trees or fields of flowers, and at the end of the summer, drive away to process the collected honey.
From the green Slovenian countryside, I am sending you lots of warm wishes and I wish you could bee here…. (get it? Be/Bee…)