Flight of the Bees

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Report on the FILE visit to Ivanci in SLOVENIA 26 April – 02 May 2015

By Richard Haseltine

I was delighted to be invited to join the group taking part in the above visit which was arranged by Archnetwork of Comrie for FILE (Festivals for Informal Learning in Europe) with Drustovo Selenca Ivanci as the host and Grundtvig being the funder.
The programme was arranged to coincide with the Bee Festival and the May Day celebrations, and the very pleasant visit was led by our hosts Marko Horvat and the community of Ivanci.
Being a beekeeper, I was keen to learn about beekeeping in Slovenia, and to see if any aspects could be adopted usefully in Scotland. I was not disappointed as I noted, photographed, and talked about many elements, some of which I hope to use myself and which I aim to explain to members of Dunblane and Stirling Beekeepers Association, and possibly the Scottish Beekeepers Association.
I therefore will concentrate this report on beekeeping aspects of the visit, as I am sure that other members of the group will more ably describe other elements of the excellent visit.
On Monday 27th April we met the FILE group from Romania with whom the combined visit had added value. After an introductory talk by Marko, we all set off on the 10km walk “The flight of the bees”

Flight of the Bees

after visiting the church in Ivanci where the fine decorations included a stained glass window “The Eye of God” (Fig. 2)
Ivanci Festival Visit

We passed open fields owned by the villagers planted with a wide range of crops, and large woodlands in which the villagers have allocated areas which they tend, from which they are allowed to extract a limited volume of timber. This combination of farmland and tended woodland is important as it provides the foraging scope for the large number of colonies of honeybees we were about to see.
Mr. Stanko was introduced to us and we enjoyed being shown around one of his four transportable bee-houses.(Fig. 3)

 

Each bee-house contains about 48 colonies which can all be accessed from a central passage within the building. There was an additional nucleus hive on the end where extra liquid food can be supplied to build up new colonies. (Fig.4)

The important feature in the Slovenian bee-house is the use of the AZ system in which the frames of eggs and larvae, and those of honey, can all be slid out horizontally, therefore colonies can be stacked one above each other as well as side by side. (See Figs 5, 6) . The systems used in UK and many other countries require the frames to be lifted out vertically, thus colonies can only be placed side by side, thus severely limiting the number of colonies in the few bee-houses in UK.
Ivanci Festival Visit
Mr. Stanko explained that he moved his bee-houses when necessary to allow them to be near to each phase of good foraging, which includes wild cherry, oil seed rape, acacia, and chestnut etc.
In addition, to ease of management of a large number of hives, the bee-houses provide good insulation for the colonies, and protection against robbery or damage by livestock, and the extraction of frames of honey without disturbing the colony.
After good refreshments provided by the village, and transported in the village, by fire-vehicle (Fig 7a), we continued the walk over a Roman road which used to run from Rome to Budapest, and beside which coins of 1st and 2nd century A.D. have been found.
We passed more farmland and woods, and another of Mr. Stanko’s bee-houses, where I noticed that the bees were much more aggressive even at a distance, maybe because they had not been calmed by the use of smoke from wild horse-shoe mushrooms, as used at the first bee-house.(Fig 7b)

Further refreshments were provided, again by use of the fire vehicle, which had been funded by collections in the village, so it was put to use from time to time. (I was told that there was normally no more than one call-out per year!) Romanian and Slovenian male voices gave us some good songs bfore the final walk back to the village. (Fig 8)

On the morning of Tuesday 28 April we were taken to the home of Stephan Klement and his wife, who made us all very welcome. They live in wooded countryside with a wonderful bee-house built near their home. (Figs 9, 10)

They have been keeping bees for over 40 years, with Stephan looking after the bees and wheeling the trolley loads of frames of honey to the central extraction room of the bee-house where his wife normally does the uncapping and operates the centrifugal extraction machine.
Ivanci Festival VisitUnfortunately she had broken her wrist so Stephan demonstrated the equipment for us, and his wife provided excellent tea and cakes for the large group of visitors.
Using a door for each hive he was able to open part mesh doors for either the brood chamber or super above. When he withdrew frames he took them to a good electric double brush machine which removed all the bees, keeping them in a sealed bucket to be tipped back into the hive, keeping the passageway nearly clear of bees. (Figs 11,12)

The bee-house has approximately 54 colonies with many additional nucleus and mating hives etc, and the full range of equipment kept in excellent order. Pollen collecting boxes were fitted to each main hive entrance, allowing pollen to be made into paste or patties to feed other colonies when needed.(Figs 13, 14)

Stephan very kindly gave me a frame made by him to the AZ system (Anton Zuidarzic the inventor), shown together with the metal spacer strip which ensures the correct bee-space is maintained between frames. (Fig 15) I hope to develop a means of altering B.S. National frames at home and to make them slide horizontally into a hive modified in the AZ style! (Fig 15a) shows Mr. & Mrs Klement with Marko.

During the afternoon of 29th April we were taken to the large new wooden chalet-bee-house built for Stephan Semem for his Apitherapist business. The gable end of the building houses 60 hives for honey production, and additional hives at each side to provide air to rise from the hives to surround a person on the couch in the room above the hive. The building has large ground floor rooms and bedrooms and a balcony above, thus making it into an apitherapy centre. (Fig 16, 17)
Bed for api-therapy

The paintings on the gable end of the building allows the bees to locate their own hive by recognition of their position within the painting. (Fig 17b)

We were shown the large number of nucleus hives and larger transporting hives prepared for customers in France. (Fig 18)

We enjoyed sampling the wide range of good honey and honey products prepared for sale.(Fig 19)

Although I stated that this report would concentrate on the beekeeping aspects of the trip, I must now mention the preparations for the May Tree erection and bonfire when completed. I found this a great example of the villagers all working together to do a great job in a very cheerful way. (e,g, as there were so few young chaps in the village to dig the deep hole to take the great tree, by tradition some young men from another village did the work willingly, an example which could be used in many countries worldwide) (Fig 20, 21)

In conclusion I wish to thank Marko and all the friendly people of Ivanci for making us so welcome, and to thank the Romanian group with whom we seemed to get on with well in spite of the language problem at times, but this was overcome by translations by Monica and Marko. I thank Libby Urquhart and Archnetwork for arranging and conducting the FILE trip, and finally to thank the Scottish group for putting up with the beekeeper who also spent too long taking photos! (A few more of these follow)
Ivanci Festival Visit
Ivanci Festival Visit

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