Beekeeping in Athens

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Would you like to come and see my bees?

a friend asked me.  No, it wasn’t a pick-up line, my friend genuinally has bees on a small mountainside in Melissia, a suburb to the north of Athens.

So one rather temperamental  Sunday (weather wise), off we go.

Bees’ll be a bit moody

Paul looks up at the constantly shifting and menacing clouds.  Hmm, do I need to worry about this? He must’ve seen my concern because he pats me on the back and says

Don’t worry, you’ll be suited up.

Suited up
Suited up

Paul and his friend have eight hives – four of them new – and have been keeping bees for about 3 years.

Have you ever had any honey?

According to Paul, “The last year or two hasn’t seen a lot of honey produced, not just with us, but a lot of beekeepers in Greece say the same.  Bees are sensitive to environment, and some put it down to all the negativity around re: the financial crisis.  They just stop producing.”

It’s an interesting theory.  Paul and his friend also told me that bees definitely  have their own personality.  And I can believe it.  Let’s face it, bees are what keeps us all going, with their pollination.  It was Einstein who famously said:

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. Source: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/08/27/einstein-bees/

So, back to their personalities:  there’s the Queen – who only mates once.  She leaves the hive to mate with the Drone bees outside and comes back to lay eggs in a cell in the hive.  A Queen has a lifespan of 3 years, the rest 3 months (see?  Females are stronger).

Then there’s the Guard Bee – guards the hive – Maintenance Bees, who do exactly that. In fact, if you want a perfect example of Collectivism,  you should study bees more carefully!  We could learn a lot from them I think.

Get suited and booted before going near them, especially hive 12!

I am warned.

That’s a difficult one.  So I suggest you stay back.

They’re pointing at the infamous Hive 12.  By now, we’ve sat outside on the patio and had some juice and snacks, I’m suited up and we’re in the hive. First, the hive is ‘smoked’ (think of something similar to what they use in churches when they wave around their incense).  This calms them down.

See the smoke?
See the smoke?

The lid comes off, the noise is pretty hard to describe!  I mean, just think of a bee, but a whole load of them.  We had to shout to be heard.

This is the first time Hive 12’s not been aggressive!

“Probably because I’m here” I joke.  “They like a female presence.”

But I forgot: bees are sensitive to the environment, and the two men are looking at each other and nodding.

“I think you may have a point.  They need a female to calm them down.”

I am reminded of my time on the container ship when the Chief Officer told me the same thing.

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After checking the hives, making sure the pallets are stacked closely together (so that wax doesn’t spread between them) and putting some wax in a jar for me to attempt to melt into a candle, we sit outside on the veranda again, where I learn about:

Swarming (some bees leaving to set up home elsewhere).

We don’t want this to happen.  It happens roughly twice a year, if a hive gets too full .

To prevent it, they find the Queen’s egg/cell and kill it off – or they lay an empty hive down to start a new home for the bees.  But the best solution is the first one…it’s good to have a full to bursting hive so that the honey is produced.

What a different and pleasant way to spend a Sunday.  I hope that the environment changes enough for the bees to produce yummy honey.

Collecting wax to take home
Collecting wax to take home

4 COMMENTS

    • Glad you liked it Pavlos. Yes, I enjoyed my time amongst nature. We can learn a lot from nature I believe.

  1. Hi Bex, My name’s Michael and I’m from the UK, but live in Ilioupoli south east Athens with my Greek wife and our daughter. I have not done beekeeping before, but intend to start. Next March 2018 I hope to return to the UK and and go on a 6 weeks British Beekeepers Association course near to my UK home address. I had intended starting in Athens, but have heard that you are not allowed bee hives in your back garden or on your roof anywhere near residential property? You mentioned, that not a lot of honey was being produced? Well the following incident will not help. This morning from our top floor balcony I watched a Greek neighbour zapping honey bees around a flowering bush for around 20 minutes with a battery operated electric tennis racket. In that time he must have killed 100 bees. This by the way happens daily, especially now with the flowers in bloom. Who kills honeybees that are going about their daily business and cause nobody any harm?

    • Great to hear from you Michael…thank you for commenting on my post – I am on the road at the moment and only manage to look at my site about once a week when out on the road.
      I am sorry to hear of your experience. I am not a beekeeper and therefore cannot advise you, I went with my friends who keep bees and had this nice experience – this post was written over three years ago.
      I wish you well with your course and hope you find a similar organisation in Greece.
      Best.

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