Honey is one of Slovenia's most distinctive food products. Beekeeping in the Alpine country is based on longstanding tradition, continuing innovation and – last but not least – strict rules which make Slovenian honey one of the world's purest. Slovenian beekeepers have launched a number of innovative products which go well beyond honey or wax collecting.
What is behind the high quality of Slovenian honey? The answer is simple. Behind the fame of German lager is a set of very strict rules that the German beer brewers had to follow. The same goes for Slovenian beekeepers.
Slovenia has in fact one of the world's strictest regulations in this field. What is considered ecological beekeeping in most countries is normal procedure required by the law in Slovenia. One of the key rules is: nothing whatsoever should be added nor taken away from the honey. The result is very pure, high quality honey, full of taste and very healthy. It’s no wonder that Slovenian honey is a European protected geographical indication.
Another factor that contributes to the high quality of Slovenian honey is that there's practically no large scale »industrial« beekeeping. Most of the honey comes from small beekeepers with boutique production and a passionate attitude towards the small diligent insect. Almost 10.000 beekeepers produce some 1,700 tons of honey. Total production may not be high yet. The percentage of beekeepers among the general population is among the world's highest, however.
The beekeeping has been a part of Slovenian culture for ages. The world’s second most common variation of bee is the Carniolan honeybee (Apis mellifera carnica) or the Carniolan grey bee, an autochthonous species in Slovenia. One of the fathers of modern beekeeping techniques was Slovenian Anton Janša, an official teacher of apiculture at the Habsburg court in Vienna back in 18th century.
Slovenian beekeepers remain innovative. Nowadays, beekeeping is much more than just honey or wax collecting. One of the fastest growing related areas is apitherapy: Slovenian beekeepers have added a new touch to the branch of alternative medicine which is normally based on bee products. Some beekeepers offer visitors apitherapeutical sessions in a special space inside the building which contains the beehives. The visitors can inhale the beneficial fragrances coming out of the beehives and enjoy the soothing sounds and presence of bees. The therapeutical effects may not be scientifically proven, yet the technique is gaining on popularity. Api wellness programs combine honey massages and the use of various cosmetic products based on honey, propolis and even bee venom.
Another important branch related to beekeeping is apitourism: just as visitors come to vineyards to enjoy the scenery and taste wine where it is produced, they can nowadays visit beehives and beekeepers. Tourists can observe master beekeepers at work, walk in honey gardens or take specially created api-routes which run all across the conutry. Of course they can also enjoy honey products or participate in api-cuisine workshops. The organized api-tours are provided by the Aritours travel agency, which has made partnership with the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association. It provides not only programs for tourists willing to learn something new, gather new experiences or simply enjoy the benefits of services like api-wellness, it also offers special training tours for beekeepers. Truly, as a Slovenian brochure prepared for one of the latest global Apimondia congresses aptly summarizes: “Api experiences beyond beekeeping”.