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BEEKEEPING - Learning and teaching

Interview with John Phipps, the editor of The Beekeepers Quarterly


part 2 (2 of 4)

5. You live in Greece now and edit the magazine from there using the modern means of communication. Can you describe beekeeping in Greece briefly? What type of hive is used, what are the main honey flows, and generally, what are the main characteristics of Greek beekeeping?

J.P. I still consider myself a novice beekeeper as regards Greece. Most, maybe all, beekeepers use Langstroth hives with fixed floors and with deep boxes used as honey supers. Most of the beekeepers I know do not use queen excluders. The pattern of beekeeping is very different from the one I was used to in the UK.  Here the bees build up rapidly in the south of Greece and make use of the early flows from the many wild flowers but particularly mountain sage. There is a further flow in July from the thyme and some beekeepers move their bees to the forests for honeydew from the pines and firs. In midsummer the broodnest shrinks and builds up only slowly when pollen becomes available in early autumn - mainly from the carob tree, the ivy and the heather. The broodnest stays relatively modest in size and then expands once again in spring.

The bees are excellent to work with, that is the local Cecropia strain. You can work them just wearing sandals, shorts and t-shirt when it is warm - but when there is a cold chilly wind in spring more protection is needed!

On the whole beekeeping is good business. Honey fetches a good price - upto 14 euros a kg and the price goes up each year. On the other hand traditional agricultural industries like cotton and olive production have returns similar to twenty years ago. Many customers buy honey for cooking - especially the sweet puddings Greeks and tourists seem to like. Most of the extended families have at least one beekeeper and  I have seen no sign in the south of imported honey.

There doesn't seem to be a great interest in this locality of 'added value products' like royal jelly, pollen and propolis and little effort is made to make packaging linked to the tourist industry - most visitors leave with bulky kilo tins or glass  jars of honey.

A typical Greek apiary

Almond is an early spring source for bees


6. At what extent are you included in Greek beekeeping affairs?

J.P. I am fortunate to live in an area where I have been able to make contact with and gain many beekeeper friends. Often we look at our bees together and try out new techniques. Most of them are interested in the new ideas or strange pieces of equipment that manufacturers send me to try out. The language is a bit of a problem, but I am learning more Greek each day! The national Greek beekeepers association have made me an honorary member and they would like me to write for their publication.

Next spring, a beekeeper from Cyprus, another from Crete, another from N Greece, a beekeeper from my home village, an English beekeeper and myself are all planning on  visiting  Mount Athos to see the bees at the Monastery of Agios Pendelaenanos - where the bees from my village are supposed to have originated from. That is something we are all looking forward to - maybe more about this on your site later.


Mountain sage - our first plant to give a good flow

  Honey stalls are common in the market places, usually small ones.


part 1 (editorial work, BKQ magazine)

part 2 (beekeeping in Greece)

part 3 (beekeeping in UK, working with children)

part 4

more pictures 1

more pictures 2

more pictures 3