“Bee Chapel” – A Peek into Slovenian Hives

In June, Dr. Doebel and the GW honeybee research lab had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Janko Božič, a beekeeper and professor from the Republic of Slovenia, which is renowned for its history of beekeeping and honey production.  Dr. Božič teaches animal behavior and beekeeping at the University of Ljubljana, and has contributed to over a dozen publications, many of which concern honeybees. He visited The George Washington University as well as the University of Massachusetts to spread word of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association’s initiative to establish World Bee Day.

World Bee Day

World Bee Day would be held on May 20th, 2016, significant because it is the birthdate of Anton Janša, an apiarist critical to modern beekeeping, who wrote several books on the subject. Janša was innovative, suggesting that hive supers should be stacked in proportion to the size and volume of the bee colony, and also helped develop methods of honey extraction that did not kill off bees. Held on Janša’s birthday to commemorate his legacy and findings, World Bee Day would be held to raise awareness about honeybees and their impact on us and the environment, especially in the face of Colony Collapse Disorder. The United States has National Honey Bee Day, first celebrated in August 2009, and will fall on August 22nd of this year. The Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association has garnered the support of most of the European Union for World Bee Day, and are trying to get backing from the United Nations.

Before Dr. Božič left us at GWU, he was kind enough to give us literature about World Bee Day and even his book, A-Ž Beekeeping with the Slovenian Hive, that he has written. It is a thorough manual for anyone who wishes to learn details about the innovative structure of bee houses, the most popular hive structure in Slovenia, and how they can adapt their (more than likely Langstroth) hives to this system.

The Slovenian AŽ (Alberti-Žnideršič) bee houses are constructed very efficiently, with an architecture that caters to different weather patterns in each season of the year. The roof protects the hives (which, in the Republic of Slovenia, house Carniolan honeybees) from rain and direct sunlight in both the spring and summer, but shadow placements will vary from season to season. Some bee houses are built onto trucks, for easy transportation!

The bee hives are stacked, and feature intricate art on their front boards, a long-held tradition in Slovenian beekeeping.

The hives have two levels: the top is reserved for honey-filled frames, while the bottom level houses the queen and brood-filled frames. With the Slovenian bee house architecture, maintenance is easy: no one ever has to strain their back lifting hives, for frames are simply removed individually for inspection.

Being able to read about and see pictures of AŽ beehives in the Republic of Slovenia is fascinating, especially when comparing them to the Langstroth hives we use here at GW. Personally, I would not mind a bee house, be(e)cause then we would not have to continuously lift concrete blocks and supers for inspections! The bee houses are quaint and convenient, to boot!

It is easy to see the love and care that are put into creating these bee houses.  In his manual, Dr. Božič compares the bee houses to a church or chapel: “you step in front or enter inside with special dignity of your loving bees.”

To learn more about Slovenian beekeeping, purchase a hive and/or Dr. Božič’s book, and even read an excerpt from it, please check out: http://www.slovenianbeekeeping.com/

We would like to thank Dr. Božič for visiting us and for educating us about Slovenian beekeeping, and advocating for World Bee Day, which we overwhelmingly support. We hope you enjoyed this feature, and please stay tuned for more updates from the GW Apiary!

Have a bee-utiful Tuesday!

-Gabrielle

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