“Bzzz” can be heard in meadows and forests in spring and summer. It’s the sound of busy honey bees hastily flying around pollinating flowers. Bees and the Slovenian people have developed quite a special bond through history. This bond is so strong, the United Nations, at Slovenia’s request, declared 20 May World Bee Day. Every 200th Slovene is a beekeeper and Slovenia is known throughout the world for its unique beehive panels. Read on to learn the story of the bees.
Slovenia has its own endemic honey bee subspecies, the Carniolan honey bee, also known as the Carniolan and nicknamed Carnie, or Grizzly in Slovenia. It’s the second most widespread bee race in the world. It’s famous for its docility, diligence, simplicity and great sense of direction. Bees are extremely useful for the environment and for people. They’re one of the important pollinators and contribute to food safety. Every third spoon of food we ingest depends on bees. Pollination is also important for the development and dispersal of plant species, biodiversity and fruit and vegetable ripening. However, they are threatened by humans with their pesticides, which is why many countries have forbidden the use of those pesticides that are harmful to bees.
It’s important to realise that we can contribute to the preservation of bees ourselves, namely by planting nectariferous plants in our gardens. By doing this, we not only help nature but also make our gardens and meadows look more beautiful. And if you don’t have a garden, you can buy pots of nectariferous plants and put them on the balcony. There’s a lack of bee forage sources in cities in summer. And there are lots of nectariferous plants to choose from. They include many types of herbs, from basil and sage to mint and lemon balm. The evergreen boxwood will also enrich every garden and balcony, thanks to its white flowers. The richly blossoming wall bellflower is one of the most popular plants that creates a fairy-tale-like scenery when blooming.
Honey is thought to be the world’s first sweetener and even the Romans used it as payment. Beekeeping has a long tradition in Slovenia and Anton Janša is the father of the country’s modern beekeeping techniques. Slovene’s pride themselves on many types of honey. Honey produced in Slovenia has a protected geographical indication and a pot of honey always comes with a special label. The story of the Kočevje forest honey, produced by bees from various plants of Slovenia’s largest forest, is particularly interesting. This honey is produced throughout the entire country and is marked by wide variety and great quality. The karst honey is regarded as particularly of high-quality as well and is very rich in minerals and enzymes. A bee has to visit four million flowers and fly the distance four times greater than Earth’s circumference in order to produce a kilogram of honey.
Various sweet treats can be made using honey. Gingerbread cookies are among the most popular. The stories told by gingerbread products can be experienced at the Gingerbread Museum in Radovljica or at the Honey Heaven museum and gallery in Slovenj Gradec. Honey breads from Dražgoše and Škofja Loka are also, as the name implies, made using honey. And warm mead goes along especially nice in the Christmas time. Other popular drinks are honey spirits and honey beer. Another special product is licitar, an ornamental sweet that isn’t intended for consumption. It’s made similarly as gingerbread. There are approximately ten licitar workshops in Slovenia at the moment, and the oldest one is that of the Perger family from Slovenj Gradec who have been dealing with the art of licitars since 1757. Nowadays, there are various souvenirs made out of dough and shaped like a heart, though they can have other shapes as well, such as that of a horse.
Many tourist attractions in Slovenia are dedicated to bees. The Honey Story pavilion opened in Lukovica last year, showing the work of bees and beekeepers. The mobile apiary presents bees through all your senses. Then there’s the largest experience-based exhibition on the Carniolan honey bee in Europe, which is located in Ivančna Gorica. Going through four virtual rooms, you can learn about the famous beekeeping family. Dr. Philipp Rothschütz was the first to describe the Carniolan honey bee. The exhibition also introduces the beneficial effects of honey and presents the bee as an inspiration in literature and art. There are also bees in glass beehives. Slovenia has lots of beekeeping-themed nature trails as well. One of them is located in Bela krajina where bees are thought of as the poetry of agriculture. Another interesting thing is the painted beehive panel. On these panels, beekeepers expressed their artistic creativity. It all began with religious motifs, but later on they were often replaced by motifs from everyday life, and there were also some that depicted funny stories. In Radovljica, there’s an interesting Museum of Apiculture with an exhibition that shows the world of the Carniolan honey bee and beekeeping in Slovenia. The museum is located in the Radovljica Manor and presents the history of apiculture and also has many beautiful beehive panels. There’s also an observation beehive at the museum from May to October. In Žirovnica, near Radovljica, is Anton Janša’s Memorial Apiary where you can learn all about Anton Janša and his story. He became the first beekeeping teacher in Vienna. Walking among the apiaries, you’ll discover the Slovenian tradition of painting beehive panels.