Skip to main content

Slovenia proposed that the United Nations (UN) proclaim 20 May as World Bee Day. On 20 December 2017, following three years of international efforts, the UN Member States unanimously approved Slovenia’s proposal and 20 May was proclaimed World Bee Day.
Anton Janša's birthday, 20 May, was declared World Bee Day at the initiative of Slovenian beekeepers.

The fact that Slovenia is an important name in the field of beekeeping is best illustrated by our rich history, which is inextricably linked to this important agricultural industry. In his book The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, Janez Vajkard Valvazor mentioned beehives in the form of houses and the people who took care of their tiny inhabitants. In the 18th century, significant progress was made by Peter Pavel Glavar (1721–1784) in the field of beekeeping knowledge in the territory of present-day Slovenia. He founded the first beekeeping school in Komenda and later in Lanšprež in the Dolenjska region. His translation of Treatise on the Swarming of Bees is important, as is his report Response to the Proposal to Improve Beekeeping in Imperial and Royal Hereditary Lands, wherein he described the method of beekeeping in Slovenia and introduced some important technical innovations, such as the method of breeding queens, breeding queens outside a hive and transporting bees to pasture.

The most outstanding figure of Slovenian beekeeping is Anton Janša, the first beekeeping teacher at the Viennese imperial court, who in the 18th century completely revised the hitherto beekeeping methods based on his findings and laid the foundations of modern beekeeping. Janša was the first beekeeping teacher in the court of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa. By introducing beekeeping methods that were successfully used by Carniolan beekeepers, he caused a real revolution in the beekeeping of the time.

Men and bear during beekeeping

Slovenia is an important name in the field of beekeeping

There is no life without bees

Today, every third spoonful of food depends on pollination, and bee products are a rich source of essential nutrients

Bees are some of the most important pollinators, ensuring food and food security, sustainable agriculture, and biodiversity, and they significantly contribute to the mitigation of climate change and the conservation of the environment. In the long-term, the protection of bees and the beekeeping sector can help reduce poverty and hunger, as well as preserve a healthy environment and biodiversity.

Bees are also important in terms of sustainable agriculture and creating rural jobs. By pollinating, they increase agricultural production, thus maintaining diversity and variety in our fields and on our plates. In addition, they provide millions of people with jobs and are an important source of farmers' income.

Nevertheless, scientific studies show that there are more and more negative effects on the health of bees, which makes them increasingly endangered. This, in turn, requires us to take extra care of their survival, as harmful factors cause a decline in the resistance of bees, which affects their susceptibility to diseases, pests and the like. In addition, this is also problematic in terms of the protection and preservation of the environment, as bees foster biodiversity in nature and have a positive impact on the entire ecosystem and are a good indicator of the state of the environment. As a result, in 2011 Slovenia became one of the first countries in the EU to prohibit the use of certain pesticides most harmful to bees.

Boštjan Noč, initiator of World Bee Day and president of the Slovenian Beekeepers' Association, said at World Bee Day in connection with the role of bees in providing food: "To talk about reducing world hunger without ensuring conditions for the existence of bees and other pollinators is to pull the wool over people's eyes. It is time for everyone to listen to bees, in particular leaders and decision-makers. From now on, 20 May will be a worldwide celebration of bees and beekeepers. I believe that with the proclamation of World Bee Day, the world will begin to think more broadly about bees, in particular in the context of ensuring the conditions for their survival, and thus for the survival of the human race."

Bee in flight beside flower

Bees are some of the most important pollinators, providing food and food security. | Author Slovenian Beekeepers' Association

A Slovenian natural treasure

The importance of beekeeping in Slovenia can also be seen in numbers: Slovenia has 11,293 beekeepers, 15,420 apiaries and more than 210,000 bee colonies, which is 42% more than ten years ago. It should not be overlooked that with five beekeepers per 1,000 inhabitants, Slovenia ranks at the very top of the EU Member States in terms of the number of beekeepers per capita. Slovenians are a nation of beekeepers, and beekeeping enjoys a status equal to that of other types of agricultural activity. In Slovenia, awareness of the significance of bees and ensuring their well-being is therefore generally high.

Their tireless helper is the autochthonous Carniolan bee (Apis mellifera carnica), which is famous for being a hard-working, humble, resistant animal, with an excellent sense of orientation. In Slovenia, beekeeping is allowed only with the autochthonous Carniolan bee. Slovenia is the first EU Member State that provided legal protection to bees. The Carniolan bee is protected under the Livestock Farming Act, and in its pre-accession agreement with the EU Slovenia protected its territory as the region of origin of the Carniolan bee. By so doing, it committed itself to doing everything possible to preserve the bee.

It is therefore not surprising that Slovenia has an Apiculture Museum in Radovljica, and that Slovenian beekeepers are well organised in local associations under the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association. Slovenian beekeepers have enhanced the beekeeping tradition by expanding it to include beekeeping tourism.

In order to produce a kilogram of honey, a bee has to visit four million flowers and fly four times the distance around the planet.

Honey in Slovenia can be considered our unique natural treasure. The success of beekeeping production is influenced by many factors, namely weather conditions, winter losses of bee families, losses due to bee diseases, poisoning and much more. The production of honey in Slovenia fluctuates from year to year, and in 2020 we produced 1,293 tons. Beekeepers produced the most honey in 2001, i.e. a record of 2,550 tons, and the least in 2014, amounting to 471 tons. With their harvest, beekeepers meet more than half of domestic consumption demand, so that the rate of self-sufficiency in honey in 2020 was 67%. The predominant method of beekeeping is in AŽ-hives; in Slovenia most beekeepers are engaged in amateur beekeeping or it is a secondary activity. Honey is highly appreciated in Slovenia, as we consume about a kilogram per capita per year. We prefer to buy it from beekeepers, as more than 80% of their produce is sold directly from home.