17. 1. 2020
Nazaj Naprej

An Urban Beekeeping Overview of 2019 in 12 Points

2019 will be remembered among beekeepers in Slovenia as one of the worst years regarding the honey crop – and one of the best in terms of urban beekeeping.

1. Being included at the XXII Triennale di Milano

The main exhibition area at the Triennale di Milano; photo: GT
The main exhibition area at the Triennale di Milano; photo: GT

One of the highlights of our year happened early in the spring – the 1st March 2019 saw the opening of one of the most important international events in the field of design and architecture, the XXII Triennale di Milano, this year’s title of which was Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival. Participating as exhibitors at the Triennale among some of the best designers in the world were also students and lecturers from the University of Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts and Design (UL AFAD), who under the supervision of Assist. Prof. Barbara Predan presented the project “Thinking the Conditions of Our Time”.

<em>The interactive Slovenian pavilion; photo: AFAD</em>
The interactive Slovenian pavilion; photo: AFAD

The participating project by the AFAD was recognized as one of the highest quality presentations and was included as a national, ‘Slovenian pavilion’ at the most prestigious venue in the Triennale’s main building. The project presented initiatives that demonstrate how humans with our activities not only have the power of destruction but also the ability to regenerate. Not only do we have the capacity to restore but also to return to nature more than we have received from it. In order to achieve this, we need to adjust our ways of life and activities. Our Urban Beekeeping Society and the initiative Rent-a-Hive was presented at the Triennale as one of the examples of such change.

The project Rent-a-Hive itself was identified on the Triennale’s official site as one of the highlights of the pavilion! More at: https://www.triennale.org/


2. The publication of the Slovene translation of Markus Imhoof and Claus-Peter Lieckfeld’s book More Than Honey

Along with his notable documentary on the life and survival of bees More Than Honey, the Swiss director and writer Markus Imhoof and co-author, the German journalist Claus-Peter Lieckfeld, also prepared the publication of an outstanding book with the same title. In 2019 we translated the book into Slovene and co-published it with the NGO Medtem under the title Več kot med. The launch of the book and the prominent visit of Markus Imhoof in Ljubljana were events with which Slovenian urban beekeepers marked the 2019 World Bee Day on the 20th May.

Franc Šivic, Markus Imhoof and Gorazd Trušnovec at the book presentation in Cankarjev Dom; photo: Mare Vaupotič/CD
Franc Šivic, Markus Imhoof and Gorazd Trušnovec at the book presentation in Cankarjev Dom; photo: Mare Vaupotič/CD

With the appropriate sponsorship, our plans for the future include some further interesting book projects, mostly translations of works that broaden the horizons of beekeepers and also bring new knowledge to the wider reading public. The book More Than Honey conveys technical and professional information in a reader-friendly way. The Slovene version Več kot med is available at MK bookshops, certain beekeeping shops and individual selling points such as SEM or the Kinodvor bookshop, or you can simply order it online through our web site.


3. Advanced box hive beekeeper course

In 2019 we successfully ran the second season of our Advanced box hive beekeeper course in cooperation with beekeeping expert Damir Lovrić. The course is aimed at beekeepers who wish to improve their knowledge and focuses on the box hive (LR) system and its various versions (inspired by ecological approach developed by dr. Gerhard Liebig), a technology not as widespread in Slovenia. Of course, regardless of technique, what is crucial is the awareness of the biology and responsiveness of the hive family. Lectures took place twice monthly in the afternoons at the Ljubljana Biotechnical Educational Centre with simultaneous practical demonstrations on hives of urban beekeepers at various locations around Ljubljana.

An expert demonstration on the terrace of the B&B hotel Ljubljana Park; photo: GT
An expert demonstration on the terrace of the B&B hotel Ljubljana Park; photo: GT

With the high level of interest expressed, we plan to run the advanced course in box hive beekeeping for a third season in 2020 with priority in participation given to members of the Urban Beekeeping Society. The event with details about how to apply will be duly published on our website and in social media.


4. The bee corridor and testing of innovative equipment

Over the last few years, members of the Urban Beekeeping Society had a unique opportunity to participate in the testing at the development stage of an innovative piece of equipment, the so- ‘bee corridor’ that prevents bee robbery and the invasion of other insects into the hive. The accessory was developed by our member Damir Škraban who successfully keeps bees in Tivoli Park. In the 2019 season his products were tested by numerous beekeepers in Germany who responded with their impressions in the form of YouTube videos that you can also watch on the German site of this innovative product.

The product was very successful internationally and was even sold out for a while; it is now once again available and the easiest way of ordering it is online from the abovementioned web site. It is also available at larger shops with beekeeping equipment.

In 2019 members of our society also participated in testing Damir Škraban’s newest piece of technologically advanced beekeeping equipment, his bee scales. This product is in its final phase of development and we will soon have more information about it in our news posts.


5. Gold Prize for urban (forest) honey of 2019 

The 18th International Honey Competition took place in Semič in the autumn of 2019. Our urban forest honey did especially well and received the Gold Prize. Analysis showed it had 16.00 % moisture content and an electrical conductivity of 1.29 mS/cm which, combined with its organoleptic evaluation and appearance, brought this year’s honey from Ljubljana the Gold Prize.

Recalling that in 2018 our member Franc Petrovčič received the Gold Prize at the 56th Agra Fair, this newest prize adds to the string of professional recognition of the excellent quality of urban honey. More about the prize itself on our website.


6. The most beautiful postage stamp of the previous year

With the proclamation of World Bee Day in the UN in December 2017, the Urban Beekeeping Society, upon the initiative of our member Tomislav Burnać, sent a proposal to Post of Slovenia for issuing a commemorative postage stamp to celebrate the first World Bee Day on 20th May 2018. The stamp was issued in May 2018 as a miniature sheet with the accompanying postmark and first day cover as part of the celebrations.

Commemorative stamp issued by Post of Slovenia to mark the first World Bee Day in May 2018
Commemorative stamp issued by Post of Slovenia to mark the first World Bee Day in May 2018

Post of Slovenia issued 60 stamps in its 2018 regular and commemorative stamp programme. In 2019 philately enthusiasts were, as usual, given the opportunity to choose the most beautiful stamp issued in the previous year and the stamp chosen as the most beautiful stamp for 2018 was the commemorative stamp marking World Bee Day. More about the project and details about the commemorative issue to mark World Bee Day can be found on our website.


7. SKB Bank recognised as ‘Bank of the Year in Slovenia’ for the eighth year running

The financial magazine Global Finance published its list of best banks in Central in Eastern Europe for 2019. The winners of this year’s awards are banks that are dedicated to the needs of their customers on demanding markets, achieved best results and set good foundations for future success. The SKB Bank received the recognition from Global Finance as Best Bank of 2019 in Slovenia. The SKB Bank also once again – for the eighth year running (!) – won recognition as Bank of the Year in Slovenia from the magazine The Banker.

<em>Heads of SKB Bank with the author and publisher of the book ‘More Than Honey’ in May 2019; photo: SKB</em>
Heads of SKB Bank with the author and publisher of the book ‘More Than Honey’ in May 2019; photo: SKB

The SKB Bank is also a supporter of urban beekeeping; six box hives are located on the roof of its administrative building right in the centre of Ljubljana. The designs painted on their exterior are also homage to Slovene cultural and architectural heritage and 2019 was the second season of harvesting excellent urban honey from the SKB hives. In 2019 SKB also supported the publication of the Slovene translation of the book More Than Honey and its (co)author Markus Imhoof also visited the SKB hives during his visit marking the 2019 World Bee Day.

In a recent memo from the new management of the SKB Bank, the bank’s new strategic owners remain committed to projects of social responsibility and local environmental projects that support sustainable development, including urban beekeeping. More about urban beekeeping and the hives on the terrace of the SKB Bank can be found on the SKB website.


8. Urban beekeeping in books

Urban beekeeping is also finding its way into popular and scientific books connected to bees and beekeeping such as in Ivan Esenk’s 2018 book The World of Bees: On Bees and Beekeeping In Slovenia (Svet čebel: o čebelah in čebelarstvu v Sloveniji). The author devoted an entire chapter with wonderful photographs to urban beekeeping.

Occasionally urban beekeeping can also appear in more unusual books. Early 2019 saw the publication of Chef Janez Bratovž’s Cookbook, which, beside recipes by the renowned Slovene haute cuisine chef, also presents the sources of some of his first-rate local ingredients. The book is a culinary journey to the suppliers of Chef Bratovž’s best ingredients that inspire his creativity, presented through 40 masterly recipes. Included in the book are also presentations about urban beekeeping and bee pollen that the chef regularly uses in his internationally acclaimed restaurant.

<em>Janez Bratovž’s recipe for yoghurt panna cotta with a mandarin sorbet and white chocolate and honey sauce sponge cake</em>
Janez Bratovž’s recipe for yoghurt panna cotta with a mandarin sorbet and white chocolate and honey sauce sponge cake

One of the features of Chef Bratovž’s book that makes is special in culinary literature is that each volume of the book is unique with a different, hand-painted cover. It is available at the chef’s restaurant JB on Miklošičeva Street and can also be ordered online on his website. The book, with key contributions by the renowned writer Noah Charney and the acclaimed photographer Matjaž Tančič, has impressed numerous expert juries at home and abroad and has received various prizes, among others the Grand Prize at the Slovene Advertising Festival (SOF).

Another of JB’s desserts with urban bee pollen and honey; photo: GT
Another of JB’s desserts with urban bee pollen and honey; photo: GT

Also available since late 2018 is the monograph Bees on Flowers and in the World (Čebela na cvetu in v svetu), published by Slovenska Matica, the result of ten years of in-depth research by Dr Marija Stanonik, member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The book looks at the role of bees in culture in general and particularly in Slovene literary works. An entire chapter of the book is also dedicated to urban beekeeping in Slovenia, showing that urban beekeeping is also gaining standing in academic circles.


9. The student project UrbanBee gets an award at the 17th Month of Design

October 2019 saw the opening of the 17th Month of Design event at which a number of awards are bestowed. The event brings some of the most successful designers from 19 countries in Southeast Europe to Ljubljana. Awards bestowed include the Big SEE Grand Prix for Productive Design and Fashion, Slovene Design Awards, the Big SEE Visionaries Awards and separate awards for Prospectives in Fashion, Architecture, Product and Industrial Design.

One of the “Prospectives” awards was also received by a team of students from various faculties for their work on the interdisciplinary project titled Urban Beekeeping and Challenges in Design (UrbanBee). The project was run in 2019 at the Faculty of Design, an associate member of the University of Primorska, leading by Dr Damjana Celcar, in cooperation with the NGO Medtem. More information on the official Month of Design site and on our website.


10. The University of Ljubljana School of Economics and Business among the world elite in the field of socially responsible practices

The magazine The Financial Times, the leading authority on the choice and ranking of the world’s best business schools, included the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Economics and Business among the 20 elite business schools with high social purpose of their operations or sustainable responsible practices. The group includes internationally acclaimed schools from around the world, among them the Harvard Business School, the University of California at Berkeley: Haas (USA), the Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden), Dublin City University (Ireland) and others. The same magazine ranked the School of Economics on their “European Business School Rankings 2018” among 95 best European business school and the Faculty’s programme “Management and Organisation” among the 100 best “Master in Management” programmes.

UL School of Economics and Business 2019 honey; photo: GT
UL School of Economics and Business 2019 honey; photo: GT

In terms of social responsibility, The Financial Times considered various aspects of operations from attitudes to sustainable maintenance to ethical and socially responsible approaches to business. With the purpose of rising awareness of the importance of bees and their key role for the environment and humanity, the Urban Beekeeping Society has, since the spring of 2019, also been cooperating with the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Economics with its expertise on urban beekeeping.

More on the link: http://efnet.si/


11. Conclusion of the exhibition on the history of beekeeping at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum

Until September 2019 the Slovene Ethnographic Museum hosted a comprehensive exhibition on the historical development of beekeeping titled Where Bees Are at Home. The exhibition, curated by Barbara Sosič and co-authored by Dr Bojana Rogelj Škafar took an informative look at beekeeping from ancient times to contemporary urban beekeeping, ending with live streaming from the box hives at the edge the Atlantis Waterpark under the auspices of BTC Beekeeping.

The exhibition Where Bees Are at Home; photo: SEM
The exhibition Where Bees Are at Home; photo: SEM

A number of bee experts from the circle of our society participated at the exhibition (Franc Šivic, Franc Petrovčič, Gorazd Trušnovec). At the exhibition it was possible to take a look at certain innovative urban beehive projects by students from the Faculty of Architecture under the mentoring of Prof. Miha Dešman (e.g. the project ‘Medul’, seen on the right in the image above), a part of the exhibition venue was also dedicated to products by a special project group from the Faculty of Design UP, the creative spatial installation titled Hexagon.

In the summer of 2019 the Hexagon project was also installed in the Šivčeva Hiša Gallery in Radovljica and more information about this event can be found on our website.


12. Increased visits to urban beekeeping locations

Urban locations where beehives have been placed are increasingly popular spots with tourists and visitors from all over the world. In 2019 thus urban beekeeping in Ljubljana contributed to the trend in growing popularity of apitourism or trips with itineraries relating to bees and beekeeping.

<em>A group from the Erasmus programme visiting the hives on the roof of Cankarjev Dom; photo: Tanja Jerina Blagojević</em>
A group from the Erasmus programme visiting the hives on the roof of Cankarjev Dom; photo: Tanja Jerina Blagojević

The profile of visitors is very diverse, from tourist workers, journalists, people involved in education, ecologists, architects and designers, children and students, and, of course, many beekeepers who are interested in this “alternative” view of beekeeping. Such visits are also a means of seeing Ljubljana from a different perspective, with some roofs and terraces offering wonderful (unique and otherwise inaccessible) views of the townscape.

Contact us on urbani.cebelar@gmail.com and we can arrange an individual viewing of one or more locations with the professional guidance of practicing urban beekeepers, tailored to your wishes and expectations. As well as the basic presentation, such a “package” can also include taking a look at the inside of a beehive, assistance with the actual work of a beekeeper, and a tasting of a variety of urban honeys.

In 2019 we were also visited by a number of journalists from abroad. Some of their impressions can be found on the following links.

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We could continue listing important urban beekeeping events in 2019 but 12 points seems just right for the period of one year. That said, perhaps it would be worth mentioning that last year employees at the European Court of Auditors (ECA) in Luxembourg began an urban beekeeping project and they got the idea from the beehives on the roof of the Court of Audit of the Republic of Slovenia in Ljubljana – we shall reveal the background to this story shortly; Or that, for the fifth year running, the City Municipality of Ljubljana was among the finalists of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association’s competition “Most Bee-Friendly Municipality” and received the top prize for the second time.

If you believe that our work is an important part of creating a friendlier environment for all of us, we welcome any support through donations and you might also consider expressing your symbolical support for our work through membership in the Urban Beekeeping Society.

We have numerous further interdisciplinary plans that will support the development of urban beekeeping and their realization also depend on your care and support. We are always open to various forms of cooperation on projects that will contribute to a better quality of urban living, greater biodiversity, engagement and sustainability, and a harmonious coexistence between nature and culture.

With beekeeper greetings: Naj medi! (May the honey flow!)

Gorazd Trušnovec, translated by Gregor Timothy Čeh