Baltic honey and beekeeping traditions - 5 fun facts about bees in Lithuania
Raw honey and sustainable beekeeping traditions date back to 1st century in the Baltic region. Baltic honey is blessed by the long history and traditions of the rich beekeeping culture and the vast landscapes of wildflowers that are terrific for bees and other pollinators. Not many nations has such deep beekeeping roots as Lithuania and Latvia. Let’s immerse into it at least for a moment.
The extent of beekeeping culture can be seen in the Lithuanian language too. Did you know that Lithuanian language is considered to be the oldest surviving Indo-European language? And that human-beings have a relation with honey bees for past 9,000 years? Therefore there is a lot of relation and significance to this. Let’s look into main cultural elements.
All hail the Queen Bee – the Mother of Bees
The term bee colony is widely used across the world as this British colonial culture. While in Lithuania people refer to as bee family. Moreover Lithuanian’s prefer to call their Queen Bee as the Mother Bee. This makes sense as she is the one to lay eggs and to raise many generations of bees.
And let’s not forget the beekeepers too. There is a beautiful Lithuanian word “Bičiulis“, it is a separate word from the term “beekeeper”, which means a bee friend. This word comes from the times when your local beekeeper was climbing up the tree to get that beautiful local honey for you. used to refer to someone you got a swarm of bees from or someone who is sharing his experience of bees. However these days people widely use this word simply to call their very good friends.
Baltic honey from the Elders of Lithuania
Furthermore, mythology and mysticism adds a big cultural value to beekeeping. In the old days when the Baltics were still pagan, there were Gods and Goddesses associated to bees. Baltic folk used to sacrifice their pure honey to Bubilas the God of bees and honey. And young ladies would pray to Austeja the Goddess of bees who would care for married and pregnant woman and would bless with fertility.
From the old days beekeepers were held as the wise men. Can even be compared to the Elders or Shamans. Imagine days when there was no internet or Youtube to google “raw honey benefits” or “fun facts about bees”. At those times people saw beekeepers as fearless and mystical individuals who would open up the bee hive full of stinging insects and would bring sweet honey unharmed. They were the ones who would find the best natural remedy to heal. Bee products such as raw honey, beeswax or propolis has many antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-oxidant properties. Raw honey was used firstly used for its medicinal properties. In addition sweets and sugar were impossible to obtain at those times, so pure honey was a relief for many.
As for the bees themselves, they have been considered sacred since ancient times, so there are many sayings associated with them:
- The bees must not be killed because they fed the God themselves with raw honey.
- People refer to bees as to another individual but not to as just as an agricultural unit.
- The bee is the only one of all living creatures that dies like a human being, because the human soul settles in the bee after death.
- It was also believed that after the death of the host, the bees could also leave the hive. It was very important to tell the bees that their beekeeper has passed away.
- Bees do not like dishonest, disorderly people, lazy people, so they choose their own owner and do not live with bad people.
Beekeeping customs till this day
Till this day there are several customs that true bee lovers of Lithuania still do. As we already covered, old beekeepers are very well respected in the community. And due to their connection with the honey bees there are some very important tasks to do for others whenever an old beekeeper passes away. People to this day go around the apiary, says a prayer and knocks each hive to let the little pollinator friends know that there keeper has passed away.
But on the more brighter side there is also some happier beekeeping customs. There is a saying that all the animals start to speak during the Winter solstice. Thus beekeepers go check on their hives if their bees are full on Baltic honey storage and if they are wintering well. This is done by giving a sharp and precise knock on the side wall of a hive. If the bees buzz sharply and loud, then the colony is well, but if the buzz is prolonged or not even then it is worth giving extra food to last the winter.
Even today Lithuanian beekeepers are living by these customs and some even try to foresee the future. For example they say “if the bees are swarming a lot this season, then next season there will be a lot of honey”. This is precisely true fact. You may wonder why? This is because after swarming the bee colony remains with a new and young Queen bee. Young Queens tend to outperform the older ones in the amount of laid eggs resulting in stronger colonies and better yield of pure honey.
Foreseeing future by dreaming honey bees
And there is more to it. There is even people who still follow the old mysticism of foreseeing the future. People who dreamt a hive of bees may result in big profits and luck while people who dreamt a swarm escaping from the hive may result in losses and hardship. Here are some more thoughts on this, but keep in mind that this have never been scientifically proven and it only depends on how much you believe in it.
- Bees harvesting honey - good hopes and happiness;
- To eat raw honey - love and health;
- Empty hive - losses, failures;
- Poured honey on the floor - a disaster.
Beekeeping today in Lithuania
Therefore the times have changed, but beekeepers are still to this day fully respecting the bees in Lithuania. It is not ethical to squish bees during your inspection, because as we covered previously they are sacred and each may carry a soul. Beekeepers are said to be good, trustworthy and honest people. Over the time the bees trained each one to be like that. Bees have extremely sensitive senses and they can feel each ones emotions. Thus ourselves we never swear near the hives and we always leave all the stress behind when doing a hive inspection.
For all of the above reasons, here at Bee Baltic, we always make sure that each little pollinator friend is cared with great respect. We follow ethical and sustainable beekeeping practices and we only use natural and ecological treatments for bees. Baltic beekeeping traditions run deep in our roots. Whenever we go to the hives, first thing we give a few puffs to the entrance of the hive to say hello. Only then the top is opened up and we continue with our hive inspection. We keep our bees in clean and secluded environment, far from the main cities, surrounded by massive fields of wildflowers and forests. When harvesting liquid gold liquid we always take only the excess of honey and we leave the rest for the bees themselves. Honey supports immune system and has a lot of antibacterial properties. Therefore plain sugar can never be a food substitute for the honey bees.
Once we take into consideration how much efforts the bees give to bring us a spoonful of honey, the least thing we want to do is to ruin the quality of natural honey. Hence we only provide you to shop unprocessed, unpasteurised, raw honey. Raw honey retains all of its natural healing properties and over time crystallises. This is a sign of pure honey. We believe in pure and organic honey practices and even thou we trust that we can be your local beekeeper. Our motto is “happy bees = happy world”!