Slovenia and beekeeping
In his book The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, a polymath and topographer baron 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.
Slovenian beekeeping - facts and figures
The importance of beekeeping in Slovenia can also be seen in numbers: in 2020, Slovenia had 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.
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.
Apitourism or bee tourism is a contemporary tourism product. Slovenia can pride itself in being the leading apitourism destination in the world. The creativity of Slovenian apitourism shows in its ability to transform the rich beekeeping culture and tradition into a unique tourism product with a high added value, which educates people and enables them to develop a high level of respect and responsibility for the natural, cultural and social environment
Apitourism offers a wide range of services and products. Visit beekeepers and discover the life of bees, get acquainted with and taste bee and honey products, discover the architecture of typical apiaries and beekeeping museums and witness the fabrication of beeswax ornaments, the painting of beehive panels and the baking of delicacies made of honey dough.
Apitherapy plays an increasingly important role in apitourism. It denotes various methods that use bee products or preparations to improve health and prevent and alleviate health problems. Some beekeepers have already adapted their apiaries and started using them for therapeutic purposes. They enable the visitors to indulge in the aromas of bee products while listening to the sound of bees buzzing and enjoy honey-based massages, thermotherapies, honey baths and other services.