Beekeeping holds a special place in Balkan culture, and the wealth of forests and unspoiled land have made honey production a precious asset for many mountain communities. In the Republic of Macedonia, in particular, this tradition has a unique aspect: the presence of a native bee subspecies, Apis mellifera macedonica, found throughout the historic Macedonia region, from Eastern Albania across to Bulgaria.
Very similar to the Carniolan honeybee (Apis mellifera carnica), the Macedonian bee has a shorter abdomen and wings and longer legs, a more docile temperature and reduced tendency to swarm. Traditionally the bees were raised in trmki, small conical hives made of straw, rushes and mud. Only a few beekeepers still use this ancient practice, but those who do say that even though yields are much lower, the honey is of excellent quality. The honey is collected from the trmki by delicately pressing the combs, which, unlike in modern hives, cannot be reintroduced into the hive but are instead used to obtain wax for creams and candles. The bees kept in trmki also develop greater resistance to pathogens, like varroa mites, meaning fewer treatments are needed. Back in the 1960s, big part of the country’s beekeepers used trmki, but presently only limited number of beekeepers use them. The Macedonian bee is now at risk of total extinction, and the situation has only been exacerbated by the introduction of carniolan and italian (apis mellifera ligustica) bee queens, which over the years have reduced the number of colonies of native apis mellifera macedonica.
The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity will also be working with producers and technical partners to further investigate the traditional production technique using trmki hives, with the aim of ensuring its survival while also guaranteeing appropriate animal welfare standards.
Republic of Macedonia
Аleksandar Uzunov PhD
Faculty for agricultural sciences and food, University of Saints Cyril and Methodius of Skopje
Chairman of the MacBee association
Tel. +386 49502100
Mobile +386 70320612