Miljko Šljivić




Good natural conditions, moderate continental climate and richness of plant life make Serbia excellent environment for beekeeping. On its area of 88,361 sq km (34,116 sq mi), inhabited by 9.8 million people, there are around 30,000 beekeepers with approximately 430,000 hives. Honeyflow potentials make a much bigger number of hives possible – 1,200,000 according to experts’ estimates.  

Growth stimulating spring honeyflow is made of willow, wood plants, fruit flowers and rape. Some years these plants provide some surplus honey for extracting. Main honeyflows which give most of honey for extracting are: locust, linden, sunflower, and meadow. According to the possibilities of using these honeyflows Serbia is divided into two areas – Vojvodina, where rape, linden and sunflower can be used, and Serbia southern of Danube, where locust and meadow are the main honeyflows. Because of the difference in heights and time of flowering locust honeyflow can be used twice.  

Locust flower

Photo by Karolj Mareček, Subotica

Hives need to be transported in order to use the honeyflows well. Different means of transport are used – trucks, modified buses, trailers with hives built in, or beekeepers simply load and unload hives. There are over 800 vehicles with built-in hives in Serbia. Platform transport is also present – usually five hives are put on a platform which is easily loaded and unloaded using a truck with a crane. In order to improve the honeyflow conditions beekeepers often rear honey plants like phacelia etc.

As for the types of hives the most often in Serbia are: Langstroth (LR), Dadant – Blat (DB), and AŽ (Alberti – Žnidaršič). Beekeepers that use platform transport and great beekeepers with more than 100 hives usually have LR hives. Stationary beekeepers and beekeepers with fewer hives use DB hives, while those with built-in hives use AZ hives. Other types of hives are less present.

The annual production of honey in Serbia is from 3 to 5 thousand metric tones, and is sold on the local market. The annual consumption of honey is 0.7kg per person. Export of honey either does not exist or the amounts are irrelevant.

Apis mellifera var. Carnica is the breed of bee present in Serbia. The most important features of the breed are extreme calmness, longevity, and good wintering with small food consumption. The center for queen rearing “Agroekonomik” in Belgrade deals with improving the breed by selecting upon honey production, disease resistance and other features. The capacity of the centre is 10000 queens a year. The price of a queen equals 2kg of honey in stores or 3kg of honey sold at retail. Demand for queens in Serbia is much greater, so new centers are planned to be opened. One such centre Timomed – Knjaževac had a trial production during 2002, and for the next year they plan to produce 6000 queens. The insufficient number of queens on the market is used by unregistered queen breeders who sell their queens without any selection.

The increased unemployment in the country resulted in the increase of the number of beekeepers, professionals or hobbyists. The consequence of this was the increased demand for swarms on the market. The swarms are sold as a packet (1.2kg of bees and a queen), or on frames (usually 5 frames, three of which with brood). The demand for packet swarms also increases in the areas with late honeyflows. Beekeepers use them to strengthen the basic colonies. These swarms are produced in regions where there are early honeyflows. Adapting to the market demands, one part of beekeepers decided to produce swarms only, or to use the early honeyflows, and then produce swarms. To be a professional beekeeper in Serbia one has to have more than 150 hives. The number of such beekeepers increases each year.

9000 out of 30000 beekeepers in Serbia are the members of 173 associations which form the Union of Beekeeping Associations in Serbia. The membership fee of the Union equals 3kg of honey, and all the members get Pčelar (Beekeeper) – Union’s monthly.

The Union has the following tasks: informing, education, socializing, and representing beekeepers before government officials. The Union informs their members about events in the area of beekeeping in the country and abroad directly via their monthly, or using newspapers and other media or through beekeeping associations. By means of the educative activities, magazines, books, lectures, conferences etc. the Union educates its members in beekeeping and informs the consumers about the importance of bee products for the general health. The Union also organizes informative advertising campaigns. A great deal of energy is spent to beekeepers’ education. On the faculty of agriculture in Zemun, there is a beekeeping department, and beekeeping is a facultative course in all agricultural secondary schools. Some of these schools even have their own apiaries. The Union has its lecturing group which consists of distinguished experts in the area of beekeeping and notable beekeepers. During winter the associations organize cycles of lectures and esp. good results were achieved by debating clubs – one of the members makes an introduction on a particular subject, and then other members engage in discussion

There is no beekeeping institute in Serbia, except for only one department in fodder institute in Krusevac. On 96 local TV stations and 120 radio stations many beekeepers have their occasional and customary broadcasts. The Union organizes different excursions, journeys, visits to respectable beekeepers, fairs, exhibitions, and so on. The Union represents beekeepers before state officials and demands more favorable conditions for beekeepers, esp. regarding legal regulations.

Using bees for pollination is not very common here. Beekeepers transport their hives in search for honeyflow and thereby bring free pollination. Big farms have their own apiaries which they use for pollination, while a small number of apple and sunflower growers pay their pollination to beekeepers.

Beekeeping as a branch of agriculture does not enjoy any benefits by the state. The government does not do anything in order to improve beekeepers’ situation. As far as taxes are concerned, hives, extractors and comb presses are tax-free, while all other material is taxed. Contemporary leaders of the Union make efforts to improve the position of beekeepers by acquiring greater benefits by the government.

 Apitherapy as a form of using bee products against diseases is considered an alternative branch of medicine. It is not officially recognized, but individual physicians on their own prescribe bee products as a preventive. Frequent exhibitions and education in the importance of bee products as food and medicaments increased the demand for remedies and cosmetics based on honey and other bee products. That resulted in the emergence of companies which deal with production and sale of such products.

Health care of bees is left to beekeepers themselves, although 12 veterinarian institutes spread all over the country participate in diagnostics. Contemporary ministry of agriculture brought some regulations by which bee diseases are made equal with other animal diseases, so we expect greater help from veterinarian organizations. As for bee medicines, Serbia has several producers of them whose capacities go much beyond country’s demand, so a great deal is exported.

The development of beekeeping is followed by the development of beekeeping equipment production. Manufacturers produce the equipment which satisfies all world standards and export a great part of their products.

A special place in Serbian beekeeping is taken by beekeeping exhibitions which are organized every year in every major town and last 2 to 3 days. Beekeeping equipment and bee products are sold there. There are also some additional activities such as lectures for beekeepers and visitors, round tables with discussions on a subject, visits to some apiaries, press conferences, granting awards to estimable beekeepers, and other activities related to beekeeping promotion.

 Translated by Oliver Mihajlović