An Urban Beekeeping Overview of 2021 in 10 pictures
In terms of beekeeping in Slovenia, 2021 was considered the worst since measurements of annual honey yields began, and was, as far as relationships within society are concerned, very much marked by the Covid-19 pandemic… Despite this, we are still able to pick out a few urban beekeeping highlights.
1. The inauguration of the Prison Honey (Medena celica) Project
After a year of preparations, at the close of the first practical season in September 2021, we presented to the public the Prison Honey (Medena celica) Project – beekeeping with imprisoned persons. The project is run with the support of the Prison Administration of the Republic of Slovenia at the Ig Open Unit which is an off-site open ward of the Ljubljana Prison for men.
The Urban Beekeepers’ Association runs this educational project as part of the consortium FoodE – Food System in European Cities, that links 23 partners from all over the EU with the aim of accelerating the growth of sustainable and resilient citizen-led urban food system initiatives. The Prison Honey Project is the only FoodE pilot project engaged in beekeeping. After a little initial nervousness from both sides, also related to anti-Covid measures, we are extremely happy that, despite the modest harvest, the first season drew to a successful close and everyone awaits further cooperation with great optimism. An extensive article on the project was also published in the national daily newspaper Delo: Ljubezen do čebel je imela prednost pred svobodo (The Love of Bees Took Priority Over Freedom).
2. 10 years of urban beekeeping at the Cankarjev Dom Cultural and Congress Centre
In early April 2021 we marked 10 years since the first thee beehives were placed on one of the roof terraces of the Cankarjev Dom Cultural and Congress Centre in the centre of Ljubljana. Cankarjev Dom with Franc Petrovčič, a member of staff there and the instigator of the idea, thus became one of the pioneers of modern urban beekeeping in Slovenia. At their third-floor level location at the far end of Ljubljana’s largest square opposite the National Assembly, the bees are somewhat remote from the eye of the public but thrive in their box hives from season to season.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of beekeeping at Cankarjev Dom and World Bee Day, our member Franc Petrovčič was awarded the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association Anton Janša Silver Medal for his invaluable contribution to the development of contemporary urban beekeeping in Slovenia.
3. Damir Škraban’s beehive scales among the best technological solutions of 2021
The Urban Beekeepers’ Association has in the past been involved in the testing of our member Damir Škraban’s innovations. After his bee corridor that prevents other bees from robbing a hive, he has developed his own digital beehive scales BeeScales.io, which we have also helped put through practical tests, and which won the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association competition for best technological solutions of 2021. Our heartfelt congratulations!
Monitoring is done on an hourly basis, the data is instantly uploaded to cloud storage, meaning it is accessible from various digital devices. The inbuilt battery is charged by an incorporated solar cell, so the scales are entirely self-sufficient. The advanced beehive scales BeeScales.io are also used by beekeepers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other countries. They have also been installed on the hives at our Prison Honey Project in the grounds of the Ig prison …
4. Salvaging a bee swarm in a snow storm
Climate change is undoubtedly behind this catastrophic past beekeeping year as a particularly warm end of winter was followed by a severe spring frost and a lasting period of rain. If anyone still doubts these sinister signs, perhaps the following scene will convince them. On 6th April 2021 the first blossoms of spring in Ljubljana (and the wider region) got a covering of unexpected snow. Even more unexpected was a morning call for help: a swarm of bees in the snow!
The bees had clustered on a small cherry laurel bush the previous day and found themselves in a snow storm by the following morning… This year I thus, for the first time in my life, found myself catching and installing a swarm wearing a winter jacket. Despite the apparently hopeless situation, the bees were very cooperative and, with the help of a nearby neighbour, I managed to salvage more or less the entire swarm. After a few days in a dry and safe environment and with a little feeding, the swarm recovered and even upon first inspection of their new hive, the queen bee was already busy laying eggs. Life will go on! (Members of our Urban Beekeepers’ Association assist with catching and hiving escaped swarms in town every spring and are used to all kinds of situations, nevertheless, this occasion was quite unique… The entire story (in Slovene) can be found on our website.)
5. Urban beekeeping gets its place in the refurbished Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica
May 2021 saw the formal opening of the newly-refurbished Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica with a new permanent collection titled Living Together – About Bees and Mankind created by Dr Petra Bole. The museum was redesigned visually and in terms of content, and a section of the new exhibition is also dedicated to urban beekeeping.
Urban beekeeping thus now has its own exhibition display panel at the museum, giving a summary of urban beekeeping around the world and in Slovenia, showing images of our member Franc Petrovčič’s hive stands on the terrace of the Cankarjev Dom Cultural Centre, a picture of hives being inspected on a Ljubljana rooftop, and one of the urban beehive tended to by Dr Janko Božič located in the Ljubljana Botanical Garden. We are glad and proud of this professional acknowledgment! (The full story (in Slovene) can be found on our website.)
6. Design award for the Prison Honey Project
The 2021 annual awards by the Designers Society of Slovenia were bestowed in the autumn and among the recipients was a group of students from the Faculty of Design for their preparation of painted designs within the framework of the Prison Honey (Medena celica) Project. Participating in the preparation of the hives for beekeeping and their painting based on the patterns provided by the students in early 2021 were members of our Urban Beekeepers’ Association, students from the Faculty of Design with their tutors, and inmates from the prison facility at Ig.
Cooperating with the Faculty of Design in the first phase – during the preparation and planning of the project – was an immense pleasure and we might mention that some of the inventive plans or patterns for box hives as well as painted designs are still available for realisation as open-source material… (The full story – in Slovene – can be found on our website.)
7. First Master’s dissertation on the theme of urban beekeeping
A number of our Urban Beekeepers’ Association members collaborated with Master’s Degree student Urška Oblak who in June 2021 completed and successfully defended her excellent dissertation entitled “Condition and Tendencies in the Development of Urban Beekeeping in Slovenia”. Considering her in-depth analysis of the subject and the paper’s conclusions, we could say that this is the first academic paper in Slovene that concerns itself entirely with the subject and issues of urban beekeeping throughout the country.
One of the numerous interesting conclusions worth noting is that three of the interviewed experts expressed their estimate that there are already too many honey bees in Ljubljana and a fourth also suggested that there are probably too many. This can serve as a warning that our capital should not make the same mistakes as other world cities and areas that have become overpopulated with bees and become a bad example… We certainly congratulate Urška Oblak for her excellent work!
8. Urban beekeeping in Janez Bratovž’s cook book in the US
“Every country has ‘The Chef’. In Slovenia, this is him. Chef Janez Bratovž is the father of modern Slovene cuisine,” the world-famous chef Ana Roš told CNN Travel about Bratovž, also known simply as JB. Tree years after the publication of JB’s fantastic cookbook in Slovene, a true monument to the highest culinary experiences rooted in traditions, a talent for refined combination of tastes and commitment to local suppliers of the best ingredients, the New York publisher Skyhorse Publishing also brought out the English version of this much-awarded book.
The book Slovenian Cuisine also includes a description of experiencing urban beekeeping in Ljubljana (the texts were provided by the renowned writer and publicist Noah Charney) – JB knows these locations first hand – as well as a few recipes for imaginative use of honey and bee products… A wonderful, permanent, and as unique as JB himself, contribution to 2021 when Slovenia held the title “European Region of Gastronomy”. To order the book online we recommend the BookDepository and while the Slovene original is sold out – you can still treat yourself at JB’s place …
9. The European Court of Auditors follows the Court of Audit of Slovenia with urban hives
The European Court of Auditors is one of the seven institutional pillars of the European Union and is based in Luxembourg. Its representative from Slovenia is the Supreme State Auditor Mr Samo Jereb with a professional interest in sustainable management of natural resources (also privately co-author of a number of books on perennials and gardening).
10. Continued brewing of beer with honey (with beekeeping equipment)
Last but not least – we tried to overcome the difficulties of the pandemic in 2021 with numerous educational programmes, carried out either face-to-face or online. A relaxation in the anti-Covid rules was immediately utilised to carry out the second year of our course on home brewing of beer with addition of honey, using equipment that every beekeeper has available to them.
We do not know what kind of adventures 2022 will bring but we will almost certainly continue with a new season of our beer brewing course, testing professional procedures, for somehow it seems that the stock of the created noble brew of hops and honey very quickly runs out at our society’s events and as gifts to attendees of the course.
Two prominent members of our Urban Beekeepers’ Association of Slovenia have retired this year, another celebrated his 50th birthday, and our friend Markus Imhoof – we have published the translation of his book More Than Honey – has reached 80! We enter our eighth year of activities just as energetically and enthusiastically as we started off. We have numerous plans for future developments in urban beekeeping, aimed internationally and planned inclusively, the realisation of which also depends on your kindness and support… We are always open to various forms of cooperation with anything that contributes to raising the quality of life in towns, greater biodiversity, ecologically aimed coexistence, empowering vulnerable groups, sustainable attitudes, and a fruitful coexistence of nature and culture.
In brief, if you consider our work worthy and important, contributing to more pleasant living surroundings for all of us, you can help us on a personal level. If you are a taxpayer in Slovenia, you can donate the fixed percentage of your income tax that you are allowed to allocate to a charity of your choice to our cause (costing you nothing, meaning a great deal to us), we also accept donations, or you can choose to support our work symbolically by joining the Urban Beekeepers’ Association as one of our members. You are very welcome!
Thank you for your attention – and Naj medi! (May the honey flow!)
Gorazd Trušnovec, translated by Gregor Timothy Čeh