Slovenian beekeeper knocked from his ladder by bull

Topical for this time of year, here’s another of Dave Larkin’s bee house pictures from Slovenia.

Bee house with falling beekeeper

In this dramatic scene from 1890, the beekeeper is knocked from his ladder by a bolting bull. On the left, the bee house can be seen, with the coloured boxes and even a few bees. Up aloft – but on its way down – is the box that he has been using to catch a swarm of bees. Maybe this was based on a real incident, and if so, doubtless the next few frames would have been equally exciting, especially the bit when the swarm box hits the ground…

Bee houses: the Devil sharpens a woman’s tongue

Ranger reader Dave Larkin has been to Slovenia again – and once more he’s brought back some remarkable images of traditional Slovenian bee houses.

Slovenian bee house image © all rights reserved Dave Larkin

Above is a typical traditional bee house in use – the coloured boards by each entrance can be clearly seen. It’s customary to decorate these boards with interesting images. Dave writes:

I went back to Slovenia skiing this winter, the hotel we stayed in had loads of bee boards in the corridors as decoration, I have photographed a few of the more interesting ones!

Continue reading Bee houses: the Devil sharpens a woman’s tongue

The bear and the bees – more Slovenian bee-houses

If you read The Ranger’s recent post about Slovenian bee-houses you must have shared his frustration at not to be able to see more detail of the exquisite little pictures painted on these traditional hives. Help is at hand from the interesting Virtual Beekeeping Gallery. The site has a bit more information about the bee-houses (looks like it has been translated, but it’s so charmingly written there’s no need to correct it):

They were decorating the small front borards over the gullet with different little pictures depictings Saints, people and animals and especially from everyfay lige. The contents of the pictures on the beehive box endind is sometimes religious, sometimes educational but evry often also both humoristic and satirical. Today we cannot definit exactly when the first beehive endings were made and we can only guess as to the cause of such a sort of paintings. We do know that the first dated beehive ending origantes from the year 1758. Ubfurtubately most of them in the passage of time were lost, partly beacuse people did not know to appreciate their historical and documentary value

As well as providing a great deal of bee-keeping information in many languages, the Virtual Beekeeping Gallery has a small gallery of images from the bee-houses – here’s a sample:

The bear and the bees: a Slovenian bee-house painting

The bear and the bees: a Slovenian bee-house painting

The Ranger also found another website with more bee-house information, and some more nice pictures. seems to back up The Ranger’s theory about bee orientation, and add another helpful function to the list:

These beehives are called “kranjiči” (Carniolans). A small wooden bee house was built in the sheltered part of an orchard. So honey bee colonies were kept under one roof, protected from snow and cold in winter and sweltering heat in summer. Thanks to certain advantages, such bee houses are still very popular in Slovenia today and contribute to the cultural image of the landscape. In the mid 18th century, a unique folk art, the painting of beehive fronts, began to emerge in the territory of Slovenia… These can still be admired today in the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica. Simple bee houses became true open-air art galleries… depicting historical and biblical events, as well as everyday village life. Because of these painted bee hive fronts the bees were able to orient themselves more easily, and the beekeeper was able to distinguish among the beehives better. This help him to remember which bee colony had already swarmed.

What's going on here?

What’s going on here?

Slovenian bee houses – not as crazy as they look.

The Ranger’s correspondent Dave Larkin writes again, with even more remarkable imagery. This time, instead of salted pigeons, Slovenian bees are the object of his attention. He writes:

On the continuing breadcrumb trail the woodcut reminded me of a bee board (front to a bee hive decorated with folk scenes) I saw in Slovenia showing a young man fishing in a river of bathing women with a pair of trousers (on the basis that the women want to wear the trousers). Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of this, but did find a very nice bee house in Solčavsko.

Slovenian bee house (c) Dave Larkin

A bee house? Whatever is that? The Ranger did a bit of bee-keeping whilst at college, but never learnt of this distinctively Slovenian tradition. Slovenia has a very long-standing bee-keeping heritage, and even its own strain of bee. Franc Šivic, vice-president of the Bee-keepers’ Association of Slovenia explains about the houses:

Slovenian bee-houses are unique phenomenon with their high roofs and special forms, which express a particular care and liking for the bees of our beekeepers… …the reasons [for using these houses] were extremely demanding and quickly changeable climate conditions, short, although sometimes abundant pastures, relief features, small space, tradition, necessity of transports to pastures and other reasons.

So these are mobile huts which are used to move bee colonies from pasture to pasture – an important ability when the season could be quite short, as is often the case on upland pastures. Other beekeepers, too, often move hives around – but rarely in such delightful style. Perhaps the most charming feature of these very practical constructions is the decoration – the Ranger notes that Franc Šivic does not try to explain those in terms of necessity, although actually, he could have. See this detail that Dave provides:

Detail of decoration on Slovenian bee house (c) Dave Larkin

On the left of the pictures can be seen a stack of four hives – each little board has a long hole above it where the bees will enter. Each hive is a separate colony, and if you look carefully, you’ll see that each of the charming painted pictures is also a separate hive – six of them in that stack. Presumably the pictures also serve a very practical purpose. One of the problems with moving hives around is that the bees need to be able to find their home again when the hive is relocated. Bees do this by imprinting on their home visually, before they begin their flight. You can see them do this when they first emerge – they buzz around and look at the hive. Each hive has its own colour and illustration. So it will be very helpful for the bees to have very distinctive colours near their own hive, preferably bright, contrasting colours… and lo and behold, this is what the traditional Slovenian bee house provides. You looked at the picture and thought it was a cute bit of antiquated nonsense, didn’t you? Think again. The Ranger wonders if anyone can provide a similar rational explanation for the gothic woodwork..? UPDATE: see more about Slovenian bee-houses here