Features of Development of Urban Beekeeping in Ukraine in Present-Day Realities
At the 47th APIMONDIA International Apicultural Congress in Istanbul, Turkey a research from Ukraine was accepted to the scientific congress; since it is dealing with urban beekeeping, we decided to publish it in the form of an abstract presentation (with the kind permission of Ms. Tetyana Vasilkyvska).
Tetyana Vasylkivska, NGO Brotherhood of Ukrainian Beekeepers, Lviv, Ukraine
Anatoliy Kharkovenko, Association Professional Pollination of Agricultural Crops, Kyiv, Ukraine
Borys Shynkaretskyi, LLC Mobile Soft, Kyiv, Ukraine
Oleksandr Stoliarov, LLC Beehouse, Kyiv, Ukraine
Ukraine is one of the five world leaders in honey production. Ukraine produced 68,000 tons of honey in 2020 according to the UN FAO information. 99% of Ukrainian honey is being producing on private farms. Almost all bee colonies in Ukraine are concentrated in rural areas. There are isolated cases of small apiaries in cities. In order to develop the recommendations for the sustainable development of urban beekeeping in Ukraine, in May 2021 we created an experimental urban apiary on the roof of a 27-storied building (110 m above the ground and 285 m above sea level) in Kyiv, Ukraine. Bee colonies were placed in polyurethane foam hives, equipped with a unique BeeData smart system (which monitors weight, temperature, humidity, sound and flight activity of bees). Additional surveillance IP PTZ camera is also installed. From May 2021 to May 2022 our experimental apiary has been constantly monitored while performing regular routines and tests on the bee colonies. During this time effects of high and low temperatures on the bee colony, effects of excessive winds, city noise and especially effects from civilian fireworks and explosions from the hostilities have been spotted and carefully analysed.
Thus, we have developed recommendations for:
- prevention of possible risks of apiary placement in the settlements;
- minimizing specific urban and high altitude (above ground) location risks and negative factors - prevention of uncontrolled swarming;
- providing high-quality spring development of bee colonies;
- honeycomb management;
- preparation of bee colonies for wintering and arranging wintering process itself;
- amendments to the applicable national legislation.
The samples of honey collected at our experimental urban apiary were tested for the content of 18 agricultural and urban contaminants (including pesticides, heavy metals and radionuclides). The species composition of pollen grains was determined separately.
Conclusion is as follows – honey collected in the experimental urban apiary is suitable for human consumption. Moreover - by some quality and safety indicators this honey is cleaner and better than one collected in rural areas. Results obtained are especially valuable for further researches on sustainable development of urban beekeeping and biodiversity care in Ukraine.
Collection of actual information about urban beekeeping. Urban specific challenges in beekeeping. An estimation of urban areas honey and other apiary products potential. Ecological quality of urban bee products.
Development of recommendations for changes for current legal regulations, necessary for the sustainable development of urban beekeeping in Ukraine.
Ukraine is one of the largest (by territory 603,628 km2) European countries. There are 461 cities with a total area of 17.5 thousand km2 and a population of 28.4 million people (as for 2021). Most cities have many plantations of food and pollinating plants (usually trees and shrubs), which are concentrated in recreation areas.
Ukraine is among the ten largest world producers of grain and one of five world leaders in honey production. According to UN FAO estimates, 68,000 tons of honey were produced in Ukraine in 2020. According to specialized public organizations and exporters, only 55% of apiaries in Ukraine are officially registered. About 400,000 beekeepers are involved in the industry. The total production fund is more than 3.6 million bee colonies. A special state subsidy was paid for 2.27 million bee colonies in 2021. Actual volume of honey production in Ukraine is about 100-110 thousand tons per year. 99% of Ukrainian honey is produced on private households and only 1% on agricultural enterprises.
Excluding few cases, all bee colonies in Ukraine are concentrated in rural areas. A couple of dozens of isolated small apiaries are located in cities. It is not a system yet.
We founded "Urban Beekeeping, Present and Prospects" pilot project to enforce the harmonious development of urban beekeeping in Ukraine.
Urban beekeeping is also important for protection of honeybees population, so we contribute to improving the state of the environment and preventing the collapse of biodiversity. Increasing the number of bee colonies in Ukraine will contribute to strengthening the health and sustainability for both our environment and the agricultural economy.
The area of the study and the design of the experiment is as follows.
Before setting up the experiment, we took into account the experience of other researchers and urban beekeepers. Understanding the pros and cons of different urban areas we chose a place with the most severe weather conditions (high temperature in summer, low in winter, presence - with certain periodicity during the year - of excessive winds with strong gusts).
We approached the issue of selecting beehive material and design to choose responsibly. We took into account most of the main parameters: mechanical strength, thermal conductivity, environmental friendliness, versatility. All of them are important enough to be considered when we create apiary for extreme conditions. We have chosen polyurethane foam beehives (BeeHouse® Ukrainian brand). We have used 35mm wall solid-made housings with 230mm Langstroth-Ruth frame.
A lot of attention was given to the choice of instrumental monitoring system - to have a full set of telemetric data about the state of bee colonies. We needed the most correct, detailed, reliable and complete data, so we looked among several manufacturers. We’ve chosen BeeData® smart system. It has proven itself well in field tests with the researched improvement of certain morphological features of plants, as well as changes in the biochemical and technological indicators of the quality of their seeds or seedlings, on plantations of commercial crops of hybrids of the intensive type of winter rapeseed and high-oleic sunflower with their additional pollination by honey bees, which were held in Ukraine in 2020. The system is quite convenient, mobile and reliable. Wireless communication technology integrated in the module significantly simplifies the work of caring for bee colonies. When manipulating the hive housings, there is no fear of possible damage to the communication cable, etc.
At the time of creation of the apiary, the system already had these features:
- temperature, humidity, sound level control module in the hive with highly sensitive sensors;
- weight control module with an accuracy of 0.03% FS;
- a module for counting the number of bees that entered and exited the hive;
- a well-designed and functional application, implemented both for the Android mobile operating system and for the iOS operating system.
We also decided to equip the experimental apiary with an IP camera to ensure round-the-clock visual monitoring of it. We took this step because we understood that without constant visual control of the apiary, it will be quite difficult for us to quickly make the necessary decisions in case of force majeure.
When choosing a race of bees, we decided on the Ukrainian steppe bee, which is a separate population of Apis mellifera macedonica and Apis mellifera buckfast.
Having answers to all the key questions in our opinion, in May 2021 we created an experimental city apiary in the capacity of 3 bee colonies on the roof of a 28-storied building (115 m above ground level) in the city of Kyiv, Ukraine (50°27'18.1"N 30°22'28.6"E).
The safety and quality of the obtained products was determined in the laboratory of the State Scientific Research Institute of Laboratory Diagnostics and Veterinary and Sanitary Expertise (in Kyiv) accredited according to ISO/IEC 17043 and ISO/IEC 17025.
Successful implementation of the project during 2021 and 2022 encouraged us to systemize specific urban challenges and ways to handle it. Among them are: extreme (both high and low) temperatures, excessive winds, urban noise (not only city traffic, but especially the use of pyrotechnics usage during metropolitan celebrations) and the effects of noise from explosions during combat actions.
Based on the results of the test, we developed recommendations regarding:
- placement of bee colonies on multi-storey buildings;
- implementing high-quality spring development of bee colonies;
- organization of the honey extraction process;
- preparation of bee colonies for wintering and organization of the wintering process itself;
- conservation of land;
- prevention of uncontrolled swarming;
- making changes to the current national legislation.
The results of laboratory tests of samples of the honey collected at experimental apiaries confirmed its high quality and full ecological safety. Honey was examined for the content of heavy metals, pesticides, antibiotics, and radionuclides. The species composition of pollen grains was determined separately.
Despite all the horrors of the war in Ukraine, life goes on. In 2022, several beekeepers joined our initiative group, who expressed a desire to set up small apiaries on the roofs of their houses.
As part of conducting research from May 2021 to August 2022, we discovered:
- ordinary painting of the rooftop floor in white color allows the reduction in the temperature on the surface of the roof by 10-12 °C:
- to ensure the protection of bees from excessive temperatures (up to 65 °C in the sun), it is recommended to arrange a tent, made of a shading net over the hives. Setting up the tent (see the attached picture) allows you to reduce the temperature on the surface of the hives by 15-20 °C in the summer and increase the temperature on the surface of the hives by 10 °C in the winter, and also protects bee colonies from strong gusts of wind;
- the color of the painted hives also affects the temperature on the surface of the hive body. Thus, the temperature on the hive body painted in blue is 13 °C higher than the temperature on the hive body painted in yellow;
- colonies equipped with an automatic heating system cope better with low temperatures in winter;
- the presence of a drinking water in immediate proximity to the apiary (equipped with heater for cool weather in early spring) is a vital factor for bee colony’s normal life, which also prevents the excessive loss of foraging bees.
Limited apiary space requires extra care preventing any types of bee attacks. All the attacks are consequences of provocations or incorrect care for the bees. For example feeding of the bees with syrup and when selecting frames for extracting the honey. In order to ensure the possibility of constant visual access to the feeding process, we designed and manufactured an external flight feeder of the original design.
Also, in order to prevent provocation of attacks, it is recommended to equip beehives with bee entry barriers.
Special attention should be paid to the choice of the queens. It is desirable to give preference to bee colonies with a low tendency to swarm and with a high index of peacefulness. These indicators are very important, because in the urban apiaries, bees are located in the immediate vicinity of houses where people live.
The city apiary can be used as a source of additional income - in 2022, we extracted 55+ kg of honey from each of the 3 bee colonies tested during the active period of 4 weeks.
Apiary on the roof could also be a unique place of psychological recovery for the building residents and for the employess in the offices.
Our research has proven that honey collected at urban apiary is suitable for human consumption and, according to certain quality and safety indicators, is better (safer and cleaner) than honey collected at apiaries located in the rural areas with agricultural activity.
Implementation of the project "Urban Beekeeping, Present and Prospects" for two years made it possible to accumulate a certain amount of important and reliable information about the development of bee colonies in the city.
The obtained results are very valuable for the further sustainable development of urban beekeeping and the preservation of biodiversity in Ukraine.
Our research is ongoing. We are open to cooperation with researchers and practitioners regarding the development of urban beekeeping.