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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.
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:
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