Beekeeping in Transylvania

by Paul White

There is one popular rural industry that up to now I have paid little attention to and that is beekeeping and honey production. Why? Because I knew there would be a high risk of getting stung! But I can no longer afford to ignore the vital work of the beekeepers, whose bees not only pollinate local crops but also produce fine honey from a natural environment.

Lukacs Hunor - Beekeeper

There are several families in the village that concentrate on honey production as their main source of income, whilst others see it as more of a pastime, supplementing their diet with honey produced on wild inter-forest meadows. This page which is dedicated to the beekeepers of the eastern Carpathians and their honey production and I will endeavour to update you with the latest stories and facts surrounding this industry over the next twelve months.

Documenting beekeeping in Transylvania

My personal knowledge of beekeeping is pretty limited, so please feel free to correct me or pass on comments if you believe there are errors with my observations. I would like the reader to bear in mind that this is a learning process for me too, which is why I plan to alter and add to the following paragraphs as I become more enlightened on the subject.

Portable Bee Hives

What was my first experience of  beekeeping in Transylvania? Well I would have to say my first exposure to beekeping started at the extreme end of the industry with long portable beehive trailers. During the fair weather seasons I regularly see them on my visits to the forests and  I have always been impressed by how far they penetrate into the forests, dragging their trailers along logging routes using tractors. They then set them up on inter-forest meadows where they benefit from both meadow blooms as well as flowers within the forest. The beekeepers usually stay with their hives as this area has a high population of bears, and we all know how much bears like honey. In fact beekeepers using smaller traditional hives regularly use portable electric fences and dogs to protect their precious commodity, as it is a constant and often irresistible a bear with a concentration of beehives on its doorstep.

Honey bees at work in Transylvania

Lukacs Hunor is my neighbour and he comes from a family of beekeepers, whose main income is generated from honey sold on local markets. Hunor kindly showed me the components of a beehive that they manufacture on site, although we only managed to get halfway through the demonstration as it started to rain. Watch this space as I will complete this section another day.

Hunor carrying beehive brood chamber

Beehive floor

The base of the hive is simply called the floor. This is raised off the ground using battens, which helps keep the beehive dry.

Brood chamber and frames

The brood chamber is the lowest compartment of the beehive and where the queen lays her eggs and lives with her workers throughout the year. The brood chamber is divided using the larger brood frames which are evenly spaced across the brood chamber as can be seen above.

Honey Super with smaller frames

As the colony increases in size additional boxes can be added to the hive called 'honey supers' which contain smaller frames. These are used to collect honey, but are separated from the brood chamber using a 'queen excluder', a frame made up of fine metal rods wide enough to allow worker bees access, but prevents the queen from laying eggs in the upper chambers. The 'queen excluder' is missing from the photograph above.

Honey vats

Once the honey has been extracted from the honeycombs it is stored in large vats in Hunor's family kitchen. Local villagers can then buy honey directly from the producer, decanted into jars. It is a great feeling to know that this honey was produced no further than 20 metres from the vats. Few 'food miles' there!

Below is a short film about beekeeping in Transylvania:-