The last historical log hive in Augustów Forest – is one of our last remaining links to the ancient glory days of tree beekeeping in Augustow.
Back in the 1820′s, there were more than 17,000 tree/log hives in the forest – today, only 1 remains. But there are more than 110 tree hives still standing in Bialowieza National Park on an area of 4,500 hectares. All of them were still in use up until 1888 and have remained untouched – which is quite amazing. This proves how popular tree beekeeping once was, as a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s sustainable forestry practices.
The older generations, who lived close to the Augustow Forest, still remember a few tree hives standing in the forest after World War II. There were also a few who were taught log hive beekeeping by their fathers. Their knowledge inspires us to keep sustainable tree beekeeping alive and a part of our living heritage. In 2016, we received the decision of Minister of Culture and National Heritage of recognizing tree-beekeeping (bartnictwo) as part of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Poland according to UNESCO 2003 convention.
Tree-beekeeping (PL bartnictwo) is a set of practices, knowledge and traditions concerning honey bees, they habits, preferences and behaviors. It is based on belief that honey bees are better off living high above ground and man should not interfere with the development of the bee family. The tree-beekeepers makes hollows in the trunks of living trees (tree-hive) or in a logs (log-hive), intended for bees to set in. Tree-beekeepers visit they hives rarely, only few times a year. The honey collecting is always in Autumn, traditionally after the Navity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (8th September), only small amount of honey can be collected, rest should stay for the bees. It’s also a believe that only a righteous and honest man could keep the bees. For depositories of this tradition, the status of a tree-beekeeper is something to be proud of.
On the other side of the Poland-Belarus border, tree and log hive beekeeping is not as rare. There are at least 60 tree beekeepers and more than 800 log hives still in use in trees. This is why it’s a very important goal of ours to develop tree beekeeping together with our Belorussian partners, and help them preserve common traditions for future generations.
Today, tree-beekeeping in Belarus preserved as part of a rich traditional culture and develops in places where civilization has penetrated only recently (the road of good quality came here only 30-40 years ago). This tree-beekeeping is an integral part of everyday life of tradition bearers and public culture. Main region, where you can still meet not only with bees in log-hives, as well as those traditional beekeepers, who are engaged in this craft – is Berascejskaje and Homielskaje Polesie (if we say about it today), when we look chronologically – 30 years ago it was possible to meet traditional beekeepers in Haradzenski, Vitebski, Mienski and Mohielevski regions – these are over the whole territory of Belarus. Mre about tree-beekeeping in Belarus is here.