Bee, Beekeeping, Healthy Environment and Healthy Lifestyle Enthusiasts!
Beekeeping in Slovenia is a traditional agricultural activity. Anton Janša (1734-1773) who was the first teacher of beekeeping in imperial Vienna presented the knowledge of the small Slovenian rural farmer as a beekeeper already more than 230 years ago. One hundred years later the area became famous with its Apis mellifera carnica bee, which soon became known throughout the world.
In recent years beekeeping has steadily been gaining ground as an equal agricultural activity. During the accession negotiations to join the European Union, Slovenia had ensured the possibility of regulating the method for marketing bee breeding material under national legislation and thus implements the protection of the autochthonous Carniolan grey bee.
Bees are still evenly populated across the entire territory of Slovenia and thus help to maintain the balance in nature. The pollination of wild and cultivated plants is by far the greatest contribution to food production. The international scientific community attributes pollination as having a 10 to 20 time greater economic importance than the direct economic importance of bees for the production of bee products.
Bees are not only important pollinators in agriculture but we can also thank them for their pollination for the exceptional biodiversity in our country. There are more than 22,000 different species of organisms living in Slovenia, which ranks our little place among the richest natural regions in Europe. Experts also add that we can talk about Slovenia – also because of the autochthonous Carniolan bee - as a European biotic-park.
The Beekeeping Association of Slovenia is a societal, non-profit professional organization which was founded in 1873 by beekeeping associations in order to achieve common interests. 203 beekeeping associations and 15 regional beekeeping associations were included in the association in 2010. Therefore there is a total of 6,809 beekeepers from all across Slovenia, which are members in The Beekeeping Association of Slovenia. The average age of Slovenian beekeepers is slightly less than 60 years. Slovenian beekeepers invest a lot in their image, so the majority of beekeepers' associations and unions have their own banners, beekeepers have their own uniforms and finally a beekeeping anthem also unites them. Every year we also celebrate our own beekeeping birthday on 20 May, which is Anton Janša’s birthday. The highest authority in the The Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association is the General Assembly. The executive authority of The Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association is the Board of Directors, composed of elected representatives from 13 electoral districts from all over Slovenia. The Association also has a Supervisory Board and a Court of Honour, represented and headed by a chairman elected by the General Assembly.
The Slovenian Beekeepers' Association has been in operation since 2002 on its premises in the building at Brdo near Lukovica; the building is the property of Slovenian beekeepers - members of the The Slovenian Beekeepers' Association. The so-called Slovenian Beekeeping Centre has three conference rooms, five offices and shop facilities with beekeeping equipment and inns with accommodation, which The Slovenian Beekeepers' Association has leased out.
The problems faced by Slovenian beekeepers in The Slovenian Beekeepers' Association
Beekeeping is becoming an industry that is being increasingly threatened. In 2010 there were approximately 150,000 bee colonies in Slovenia.
We recorded a significant loss of bee colonies in 2009. On average, beekeepers lost 23 percent of their bee colonies. The most losses were in the Coastal-Karst (41%) and Ljubljana regions (37%) and the average losses reached almost 50% in the immediate vicinity of Ljubljana, including its western part. For the last three years, the data on losses of bee colonies is as follows: In 2007 there were losses of approximately 35%, approximately 15% in 2008 and approximately 25% in 2009. This means that we lost more than 100,000 bee colonies in Slovenia over the past three years. Unfortunately, the loss of bee colonies cannot be completely avoided but can be considerably reduced through a better understanding of the causes. The conditions for beekeeping have changed: the presence of varroasis in bee colonies, intense agriculture with the use of plant protection products (PPP), climate change and environmental pollution.
If the number falls below one hundred thousand, adequate pollination no longer exists and the problem is maintaining local variations of bees and the like. According to the law in our country we are not permitted to introduce any bees so we need to provide for the conservation of our autochthonous Carniolan bee. In 2010 not many bee colonies died due to poisoning since we have made great progress in raising public awareness on the proper use of pesticides (PPP – plant protection products), the law is tougher, there is more effective control over the use of pesticides and farmers must be educated on the use of pesticides. It is essential to stress that we have arranged a "protocol" with the state for informing about the slaughters by allowing a beekeeper to simply contact a call centre, which will then inform all competent departments, which will then investigate the causes of the slaughter at the expense of the state. In the past, beekeepers who were affected received financial compensation for slaughtered bees.
A bigger problem is the gradual disappearance of bees due to climate change, the use of many pesticides, the parasite varroasis and environmental pollution. The danger is in a "cocktail" of pesticides, which we humorously compare to alcohol: if you drink a glass of spirits, a glass of beer or wine, you can drive a car, but if you drink all of them at the same time, you are not permitted to drive a car. It is similar with honeybees: The concentrations of individual pesticides are really minimal, but combining them long-term combination certainly means destruction. If the life expectancy of a bee has already been reduced by ten percent, it will be devastating.
The growing bureaucracy, which all beekeepers are subject to, is also a problem. It is necessary to bear in mind that in Slovenia more than 90% of the beekeepers work with up to 20 colonies. These are very important as a pollinator service, since Slovenia does not want to pay for the necessary pollination and does not want "manual" pollination. We all want enough bees, which will provide a pollinator service, which is why it is necessary to provide the bees with the best possible conditions and allow beekeepers to manage their activities easier.
The Beekeepers' Association of Slovenia believes that it is imperative that bees are declared as an endangered species everywhere and that all appropriate measures are taken to protect the bees. Since 2010 is the Year of Biodiversity, The Beekeepers' Association of Slovenia believes that it is necessary to enact legislation that will encourage the planting of autochthonous melliferous vegetation that will provide a pasture for the bees and at the same time it will maintain autochthonous vegetation and a diverse environment. In the area of using harmful pesticides (PPP) it is necessary to have stricter control over the improper use, while increasing funding for research on the dangers of individual resources on bees.
Finally, it is necessary to further raise awareness on the importance of bees in all areas with an emphasis on the importance of pollination because without bees there will be no food. Of course, it is also necessary to stress the importance of bee products as healthy and safe food.
The laws which apply to bee colonies may be an example for us all. Respect, loyalty and responsibility towards individual and joint tasks are the basis for their survival. They are also the basis for survival in nature. The sooner people also realize this; there is a greater chance that we will be able to save our world.
Boštjan NOČ, President of The Beekeepers' Association of Slovenia