Croatian farm offers ‘bee hotel’ for busy caretakers

A family in Croatia has opened a “bee hotel” offering productive hives for sale to customers who want to keep bees but lack the time or space to care for the tiny pollinators themselves.

Domagoj Balja says the company responds to the growing curiosity of buyers for its honey, as to how it is made at a time when beekeeping suffers from a global decline in bee populations.

At agricultural fairs, the farmer says, “We have so often been asked, ‘Is your honey really homemade? “… As experienced beekeepers, we felt a little upset, even offended.

“Then my wife and I came up with the idea of ​​letting people learn how it works by having their own beehives,” said Balja, whose family has spent decades raising bees.

The family, originally from the town of Garesnica in northeast Croatia, are offering people who want their own homemade honey a three-year contract worth 2,500 Croatian kuna ($ 391).

“They can buy us a beehive which we then take care of, and during those three years half of the honey production goes to them,” he says. “We collect the honey from the hive together. At the right times, a beehive can produce around 30 kg of honey. [a year]”, says Balja.

Twenty-five clients currently own bees on the farm. While most are from Croatian cities, some are from further afield, including a pilot from Dubai and a football coach from Jeddah.

“This aspect of our job isn’t really about racking up profits, it’s about teaching people beekeeping,” says Balja, who aims to have 40 “hotel” clients eventually.

Owners can take their beehive elsewhere after three years, although it is not easy to find another location.

Nena Salopek bought a beehive last year and collected 4 kg of honey for herself. It’s “perfect,” she says, although she is concerned about the effect of climate change on bee productivity.

Vital for plant fertilization, bees are threatened by human activities, including the use of pesticides and fertilizers, but also by climate change.

Balja says this has been the worst year for honey production in decades, after snow and frost in the spring. “In the spring, we had to feed the bees so that we didn’t starve, which had never happened to us before,” he says.

Updated: September 24, 2021, 2:21 PM

About Tammy N. McFarlane

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