1.1000 years of official beekeeping
Thousand years ago, in the times of Kievan Rus’ – one of the most powerful states of the Middle Age, – honey and wax were main products of our state export, being supplied to all the countries of medieval world and forming the basis of domestic economy. Honey drinks were of a great popularity on those times too – our ancestors knew thousands of recipes for brewing them. People even called church holidays ‘mead’. Hence, no wonder that in our first Code of Laws called ‘Russka Pravda’ (The Truth of Rus’) and compiled by Yaroslav The Wise, beekeeping was paid more attention than any other topics – seven chapters.
2.No mead? No deal!
It is interesting that mead played significant role in baptizing Rus’ in the X century instead of embracing Muslim faith, for example. Here is what the Chronicle says:
In the year 6494 (986), Muslim Bulgarians came and said: “You are a wise and clever prince but you do not know the God’s law. Have faith in our Law and bow to Muhammad”. Volodymyr (the Great – Prince of Kievan Rus’) asked: “What is your faith?” And they answered: “In God we trust and Muhammad teaches us and we must circumcise, we must not eat pork or drink wine or mead and when we die we get women for lustful satisfaction. Muhammad shall give each one seventy beautiful women and choose one beautiful woman and put the beauty of all of them in one and that one will be his wife…” Volodymyr listened to them because he himself liked women and lustful things and he enjoyed those stories. However, he did not like the part about circumcision and pork meat and especially about drinking. He said: “The fun in Rus’ is drinking – we cannot go without it”.
‘Tales of Bygone Years’ (Rus’ Chronicle in Ipatievsky register) Translated by O. Makhnovets.
3.The Saint Patrons
Since ancient times the saint patrons of beekeeping in Ukraine were St. Zosima and St. Savvatiy who in the XV century founded the Solovetsky Monastery on a group of islands in the Russian North. According to medieval chronicles, from the very beginning of its existence the Monastery had a bee yard, and that’s why people believe that these two saints have taught people to keep bees. Here is one of the legends about their deeds: ‘The two saints kept a bee farm and looked over it, though they never sold their bees. Then God put them to sleep for three days. At that time, the bees flew around the forests and people would take over the apiaries.’ Not surprisingly, therefore, that the two saints are depicted on icons with different beekeeping equipment of that time, beehives and bees. Interestingly enough, in the past people always kept an icon with the image of St. Zosima and St. Savvatiy at the entrance to the bee yard, and beekeepers did not start their work without praying first. St. Zosima’s day is celebrated on April 30. There was a saying: ‘Greet the bee on Zosima’s day and there will be hives and wax’.
4.Bees Extend the Country
Not many people know that it was due to the bee-farming that the territory on which our people lived almost doubled owing to the bee-farming! The territory of Slobidska Ukraine (now it is the territory of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Sumy and partly Poltava regions) for a long time remained unpopulated until the first settlers came here at the end of the XVI century. Mostly these were older Cossacks, sometimes senior officers. Tired with war and military activities they were looking for peace and tranquillity. They made apiaries here, because beekeeping was closer to their souls that wanted conciliation. In particular, this was the way Ivan Sirko and Bogdan Kmelnitsky spent their last years. These territories suited this purpose most of all: they had lots of honey plants, virgin forests and the main thing was that they were protected against enemy raids. Thus, Cossacks stayed here and brought their families and friends. The farms grew around the apiaries, additional craft shops and residential buildings were constructed, roads, bridges and defence constructions were built. Eventually, in the middle of the XVIII century, the country was filled with small farms called ‘slobodas’. Therefore, the territory was called ‘Slobozhanschina’.
5.The world first frame hive
In January 1814 prominent Ukrainian beekeeper and scientist Petro Prokopovych (1775–1850) constructed the world first frame hive. That invention created a revolution in the apiculture.
In comparison, Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth who is erroneously considered by many a frame hive inventor, patented his movable frame hive only in 1852.
Today frame beehive is a standard for beekeepers in every country, and Ukraine is by right recognized motherland of the rational beekeeping.
The invention of frame beehive was not the only achievement of Petro Prokopovich. In 1827, he opened the first world school of bee-keeping in Baturin, where he paid out of his pocket for education of poor peasants, which included not only the beekeeping profession but also reading, writing and arithmetic.
Prokopovich had one of the greatest bee farms at the time, it had more than a thousand and a half bee families. Based on personal research, the scientist wrote a fundamental work on bee-farming called ‘Reflections about Bees’, which consisted of many volumes but unfortunately was never published.
6.President and a beekeeper
Ukrainian history shows that the most talented people often practice beekeeping. The wisdom and beauty of the Ukrainian bee culture are inherited as a precious gift from generation to generation. For example, Viсtor Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine, is a known beekeeper. He became enthusiastic about bee farming due to the example of his great-grandfather. This noble avocation and remarkable challenge generates love for the motherland, people, national traditions and culture.
The P. I. Prokopovych Institute of Beekeeping National Research Centre was established on the base of Ukrainian Research & Development Technological Institute of Beekeeping founded in June 1989. Today, the Beekeeping Institute oversees and coordinates scientific research programs carried by organizations, educational institutions, and enterprises of different form of ownership to solve various scientific problems and reach their objectives. The Beekeepers’ Union of Ukraine, the Apitherapeutists’ Association of Ukraine, the Ukrbdzholoprom National Beekeepers’ Association of Ukraine, and the P. I. Prokopovych Foundation are all associated with the Institute. Also, the Institute publishes an interdepartmental scientific thematic collection Beekeeping and is a cofounder of the Ukrainian Beekeeper magazine. At the helm of the Institute is Correspondent Member of the Ukrainian Academy of Agrarian Sciences, Professor Leonid Ivanovych Bodnarchuk.
The mission of the National Beekeeping Museum under the P. I. Prokopovych Institute of Beekeeping is to preserve our historical past and propagate modern beekeeping production technologies. The Museum’s collection is truly unique and has no analogs in the world: here, visitors can see different types of beehive and honey extractors ranging from ancient to innovative models, collection of honeys and honey beverages from all corners of the world, unique publications, diagrams depicting beekeeping during different epochs, and many other items. Substantial portion of museum exhibits is located outdoors, in particular, the first beehive frame in the world invented by Petro Prokopovych.
The main areas of scientific research in beekeeping field conducted in Ukraine concern development of intensive beekeeping technologies, processing and use of beekeeping products, development of methods of preventing and combating bee diseases and pests, study of nectar resources and development of efficient methods of using bees to pollinate entomophilous agricultural cultures, development and manufacture of new formulas of drugs, remedies, and food compositions based on beekeeping products, study of issues of beekeeping economy, development of state standards and certification of beekeeping products.
Today, Ukraine boasts an extensive network of research and educational institutions in the beekeeping field: P. I. Prokopovych Institute of Beekeeping National Research Centre, specialized beekeeping sub-faculties at the National University for Bioresources and Environment of Ukraine in Kyiv and the S.Z. Gzhytsky Lviv National Academy of Veterinary Medicine, and sub-faculties at the other institutions of higher education specialising in agriculture (in Lviv, Sumy, Bila Tserkva, Uman, and other cities) which provide professional training in beekeeping field.
In the first quarter of 2009, the Brotherhood of Ukrainian Beekeepers and the Institute of Postgraduate Education under the National University for Bioresources and Environment of Ukraine have for the first time held joint skill improvement course for beekeepers featuring four-level program.
11.Native bee species
Ukraine has three native bee species: Carpathian bee (Apis mellifera carpatica) found in the western part of the country, Ukrainian steppe bee (Apis mellifera acervorum Scor.) living in the east and south, and Polissia bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) in the north.
Ukrainian scientists study economically useful and ethological features of native bee species, develop theoretical principles of specie-based habitation of bees in Ukraine, improve native species and grow new honeybee specie groups, types, and lines using efficient selection methods.
Functioning of beekeeping industry in Ukraine rests on the extensive infrastructure which includes the following components: beekeeping equipment manufacturers: Os’ (Kirovohrad), Melisa (Kharkiv), Khmelnytskmed, Union of Beekeepers of Zhytomyr Region; the largest beekeeping product packaging and processing companies: Bartnik (Iziaslav), Zlatomed (Kirovohrad), Ukrainian Honey Company (Vinnytsia); pharmaceutical factories manufacturing apiproducts; private apitherapy offices; beekeeping stores; bee breeding enterprises: 4 bee breeding institutions (3 of them dealing with Ukrainian steppe bees and one – with Carpathian bees), 11 bee breeding farms, 17 bee breeding apiaries; manufacturers of veterinary drugs for treatment of bee diseases; melliferous plant growers, printed periodical beekeeping publications: Ukrainian Beekeeper, Pasika (Bee Yard), Beekeeper, and the number of regional newspapers and magazines; companies and individuals offering their services in apitourism sphere, regional beekeepers’ associations, beekeeping research institutions and museums.
13.The Honey Feast
In 1997, Decree of the President of Ukraine introduced the Beekeeper Day, a professional holiday observed annually on 19 August to recognize the work of beekeepers. The date was chosen on purpose: 19 August has always been the main festive day of Ukrainian beekeeping year. Since the bygone times, on this day Ukrainian beekeepers celebrate the Honey Savior – the end of the honey harvesting season.
For the fourth year in a row on the eve of the Honey Savior the Brotherhood of Beekeepers of Ukraine holds the All-Ukrainian Honey Feast, a large-scale festival attended by beekeepers from all over Ukraine. The Feast program includes: huge beekeeping product fair, concert program, folk entertainment, and contests including the All-Ukrainian Honey Championship during which various types of honey, honey beverages, beeswax and beeswax products, and also interesting beekeeping inventions and beekeeping-related works of art, photographs, and collections compete for the right to be recognized the best in Ukraine. The event takes place on picturesque green slopes of the Pyrohiv outdoor Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine.
14.The Brotherhood of Ukrainian Beekeepers
In 2005, Viсtor Yushchenko initiated the establishment of the All-Ukrainian NGO Brotherhood of Ukrainian Beekeepers. The organization consolidates the efforts of domestic beekeepers under the slogan ‘Let’s learn unity from the bees!’ – for the revival of national beekeeping, protection of the rights and interests of Ukrainian apiarians. The Honorary Head of the Brotherhood is Ukrainian President. Today, the Brotherhood’s membership covers more than 40,000 beekeepers nationwide. Since 2007 the Brotherhood is a full member of Apimondia.
15.The Greatest Honey Producer in Europe
Today, Ukraine has all reasons to be called a European Honeyland. The beekeeping industry employs over 400 thousand Ukrainians, both professional beekeepers and hobbyists. In recent years, the industry shows rapid growth rates: number of bee families in Ukraine has already achieved 3.5 million, and the average annual honey output reaches 75 thousand tons. Therefore, Ukraine is the fifth-ranked country in the world in terms of the honey production output after China, India, Argentina, and the USA.
16.All Tastes of Honey
Ukraine is the largest country in Europe. Wide territory causes the variety of natural zones and, accordingly, – a rich assortment of honey species. In Ukraine are gathered: melilot, buckwheat, sainfoin, linden, clover, meadow, hop-clover, mint, grass meadow, sunflower, forest, valley, mountain and many other honeys. And the most precious – acacia honey – we get more than anyone else in the world!
Honey is not the only output of Ukrainian beekeeping. Our apiarists successfully get from bees royal jelly, pollen, propolis, beeswax, cerago, comb capping, bee venom, true bees extract and others. These products are widely used in cosmetology, pharmacy, food industry and even in aviation and space technologies. In the Western Ukraine bee-breeding and queen selection are highly developed. From here the famous Carpathian bee is supplied not only to other regions of Ukraine, but also to Russia, Kazakhstan, Poland, Germany, Netherlands and many other countries.
Ukrainian innovative techniques for apitherapy make provision for the new methods of treatment and prevention of various diseases by using biologically active bee-products and the energy of bees. For 35 years on basis of the Drugs Technology department of National Pharmaceutical University in Kharkiv under the direction of Academician Olexander Tykhonov the scientific school of bee-based standardized medicines has been operating. The Kharkiv scholars created more than 50 api-medicines, which are currently on different stages of introduction.
19.The World’s Biggest Beeswax Candles
Ukraine makes the world’s biggest decorative beeswax candles. The first of them, the so-called Ukraine Guild Candle was displayed during the 40th Apimondia Congress held in September 2007 in Melbourne. The Candle was 2 meters high and weighted 100 kilograms. Each centimeter of the Candle’s surface was covered in an inventive décor with the images of melliferous flowers, honeybees, and various ornaments. But the main point of the Candle was a spiral bas-relief depicting the entire history of Ukraine from the ancient times till the present day. The bas-relief used over 100 completely unique real and mythical figures, and if unfolded, the picture would have been 6.5 meters long.
The second candle was made in April 2008 and dedicated to the memory of victims of the 1932–33 Holodomor in Ukraine when the inhumane policy of Soviet collectivization condemned over 7 million Ukrainian to death from starvation. The Holodomor Remembrance Candle was lower than the Craft Candle, being ‘only’ about a meter high, but much heavier, weighting 150 kilograms. The Candle was made in form of a hypertrophied sheaf of wheat to which emaciated human hands are trying to reach ‘from inside the earth’. The upper part of the Candle has 33 wicks.
At the 40th Apimondia International Congress held in 2007 in Melbourne Ukraine won more prizes from among over 100 participating countries, excepting the home Australian team: 4 golden and 4 bronze medals. The head of Ukrainian delegation Tetyana Vasylkivska was awarded the title of ‘Honey Queen of Apimondia 2007’.
Particular attention among obtained prizes deserves the victory in the most prestigious category – ‘Commercial honey’ – thanks to which Ukrainian honey of white acacia from now on officially bears the title of the Best Honey of the World.
Next year Ukrainian beekeepers confirmed the highest quality of their products, having won 13 awards, including two cups, at famous National Honey Show in London.