Stories: URBAN BEEKEEPING IN LJUBLJANA
Slovenia is one of the greenest countries in the world. It even constitutionalized clean water. More than half of the country is protected land. It is one of the most sustainable countries in the world. In 2016 its capital Ljubljana was the Green Capital of Europe. Indeed, there are around 65 thousand registered trees in Ljubljana, and it has a 34 km long tree-lined trail where around 7000 trees grow - all nectar-bearing. More than 10,000 Slovenians (out of two million) are beekeepers. That's one in 200. In 2014, Slovenian Beekeeping Association and the Government of Slovenia proposed a World Bee Day. The United Nations made their final decision in December 2017.
The World Bee Day is now celebrated on 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša, a Slovenian pioneer of modern beekeeping.
But the bees are dying all over the world, presumably from overuse of pesticides. Urban beekeeping could be one of answers to the problem, namely some studies show that bees are safer in the cities and their honey is impeccable, because there are no pesticides in the city while small ammounts of city pollution like in Ljubljana don't affect them. In late 2017, a study by French scientists proved that urban bees and honey are healthier than those in the country.
Ljubljana has a strong and unique relationship with bees in the city. As a part of its green orientation it is systematically, on the level of city authorities, helping bees to thrive in an urban environment.
The city authorities are running projects to help the bees, plant only nectar-bearing trees in the city, parks and avenues, encourage planting nectar-bearing flowers on balconies, work with faculties to design urban beehouses, run week-long sets of activities about bees in the city and urban beekeeping, use city honey as protocol gifts, install honey gardens, run guided tours of beekeeping related sites in the city, workshops, and have implemented an emergency response team of urban beekeepers that pick up swarms in the city.
Urban beekeeping in Ljubljana started in 2008 when Franc Petrovčič brought his first beehives onto the roof of Cankarjev dom cultural center. Today, most urban beekeepers in Ljubljana are gathered in the Urban beekeeper society which - among others - was also founded by Petrovčič, and is run by Gorazd Trušnovec. Individuals and companies can also rent a hive from Trušnovec in Ljubljana. It is becoming highly popular. And with all the beehives around the city, come May every year, Trušnovec is indeed busy as a bee.
On a national level, Slovenia has started beekeeping school clubs, the nation-wide honey breakfast in school and surrounding activities regarding bees. The World Bee Day is strongly supported by the Ministry of agriculture, forestry and food. Together with the Beekeeping Association of Slovenia they worked hard to make the World Bee initiative succeed at the UN.
While Ljubljana maintains its green face additionally through its relationship with bees, other cities in Slovenia have not yet embraced urban beekeeping. Proclaiming 20th May as the World Bee Day signifies the importance of bees for human life and the effort to save them from dying, wherever and however it may be. Urban beekeeping is moving away from traditional locations and even sources of threat to the bees, according to urban beekeepers. And just maybe we should start looking at answers to dying bees in this unlikely corners of their habitat.