Apiaries of the Zakarpattia region are becoming tourist attractions. Local bees produce not only honey but also products for health and beauty. They also offer to… sleep in an apiary.
“You see, the bee is making 8 in the air, the infinity sign. The dance contains an encrypted distance to a good honey flow and its location. This way, a bee-scout tells its colleagues where they should fly to get nectar and pollen,” Liudmyla Peresta, a beekeeper, tells about a famous bee dance.
We can watch a “bee samba” and other interesting things not at the apiary but at the “Honey House” in the town of Mukachevo. The “Honey Shop” is equipped with some observation hives: a visitor has even a better perspective than a beekeeper, who mostly looks down at a bee family house. And here we can see how a hard-working bug family has built frames with cells by themselves. We can also watch how they fill them up and maintain. Everything is according to a strict roles differentiation: there are bees-scouts, bees which take care of order in an apiary, which ventilate rooms, there are bees which bring nectar and pollen flight by flight, here we can see how one of the workers has just arrived with a healthy “cargo”…
Both apiaries, which are kept by the Perests, are situated in distant villages near woods, so bees sip only at wildflowers. By the way, Zakarpattian bees are happy not to have been poisoned as thousand bee families in Central Ukraine. There, beekeepers were not informed about the chemical cultivation of fields, so they didn’t close apiaries (by the way, some people blame on contraband, not certificated pesticides). These Zakarpattian bees are known to be docile and hard-working, as they belong to such a species (karpatiankas).
“Yes, there is a little of our Zakarpattian honey. We have different honey flows – there are no big areas of sunflowers or buckwheat, for example. But this honey is very good for health as it is mostly made of different mountain herbs,” the beekeeper says. The Perests became beekeepers at the tough 90s. There was an experiment then, but it was a successful one, and now the family is one of the most famous beekeepers of the Zakarpattia region, while their “Honey House” is a famous tourist attraction. They used to attend different festivals, but now, tourists come to their “Honey House” to get some honey and bees’ treats and drugs. “Made with love” is the best description for these products.
“As you see, we have not only honey,” Liudmyla Peresta tells. “Our products are not just treats, they are rather products for health.” However, “chocolate honey”, invented by the family, is a sweet, first of all. Each product here is made following own recipes, which were being developed for quite long and required many experiments. “Remember a man telling in traditional fairy-tale “I was there, drank honey and beer”? We have such kinds of honey which can be drunk, they have nothing in common with vodka. We produce them by a natural fermentation. It is quite a complicated and time-consuming technology. We make drinks following our own recipes: medovukha on a wild raspberry, on blackcurrant and cherries. As for our honey liqueur, we prepare it from hazelnuts, which we gather before the fest of Saints Peter and Paul, we also add different spices. Frankly speaking, we are very proud of this product.”
The beekeepers have invented also sweets which cure a sore throat. They are called propolisky (made of bee glue). In general, the “Honey House” has a big variety of products for health, so it can be called a pharmacy factory. Pullen (a natural multivitamin), royal jelly (super nutritious), bee glue (a natural antibiotic), nastoikas (liqueurs) and honey mixtures made of them, comb capping and other specific products, for example, dead bees and product made of bee moth and drone larvae… The “Honey House” can be called a “Pharmacy” as well. Nevertheless, the Perests are very delicate. “We are not doctors and not apitherapists (doctors who use bees in treatment). We are beekeepers and we give an information about bee products, but we don’t prescribe anything to anyone,” the beekeeper highlights.
“Bee Kiss” – for beauty
The shop has recently started to sell cosmetics. Namely, cosmetics made of as many useful bee products as possible. The young generation is responsible for this category. After daughter Vasylyna had returned from abroad where she had been studying, she launched a product line and gave it a tender name “Bee Kiss”. Vasylyna and her mother carry some experiments, now, they have a cosmetic soap with bee glue and pollen, creams made of bee wax. They contain many bee products and ether oils. They also have a nasal spray with John’s wort and brier oils, and bee glue.
“Our first products were ointments made of wax and bee glue. It was perfect for healing wounds and rash. Once, we were working at some fair in winter, our lips got cracked because it was cold, I put some ointment on them and it helped soon. That’s how the idea appeared to make it in a small bottle so it would be convenient to always have it at hand. We started to carry experiments using only natural ingredients without artificial thickening and aromatizing agents. It contains only several components: wax, honey, bee glue and ether oils. Now we also have a hand cream, which is healing and nutritious.”
“We also created a face cream with royal jelly, vitamins, aloe and oils which keep skin resilient. It is important for us to make our products not only effective but pleasant: good absorption and aroma. It also doesn’t have to leave any film on the skin. As for the soap, we have the same principles: no colourants and aromatising agents, only natural ingredients, for example, sandthorn oil, linden, natural cacao, cinnamon and, of course, many bee products,” Vasylyna says.
Good honey cannot be cheap
We can’t but speak about selling honey in touristic destinations as Zakarpattia. Here, “honey” with “special effects” could be met – for example, of all rainbow colours. The beekeeper smiles and tells: they also made “green honey” before the St. Patrick’s Day. It took much time to find a natural substance which could give a green colour. They tried aloe, but it didn’t give a proper effect, so they used young spring greenery, as parsley. However, it didn’t give a proper colour as well. Their attitude to colourful “honey”, which is popular with tourists at the Zakarpattia, is negative: it is just a syrup with some twigs and colourants. It can’t be called honey, no bee contributed to that. “You see, we have been collecting different kinds of honey from other countries for many years (points to shelves made in the form of cells, where pretty bottles are standing), no country produces bright-coloured honey, it is all of the amber colour: from milky to brown.” Yes, there is a silver-fir honey, but little of it. It will be enough only for a beekeeper’s family and their friends, and it certainly won’t be brightly green.
“Yes, it is true that we can define whether honey is natural only in a laboratory. Other methods won’t give any result, they can only say how much water is put in honey, how old it is. I recommend you to buy honey at a beekeeper you trust, this is the only way for you to be sure,” Liudmyla Peresta says.
The “Honey House” has customers (standing customers as well) across the whole of Ukraine. They often send honey even to traditionally honey regions, for example, to the Poltava region. “They like our Zakarpattian honey there!” the beekeeper smiles. She says that they can’t sell more because of the price for honey as it can’t be cheap anyway. “The price for a litre of honey happens to approach the price for 10 litres of petrol. By the way, we use this amount of petrol every day while going to the apiary to the village. Of course, now we are a little bit far from such price because it is too much expensive, but it has been so during these years. Honey has never been cheap. They used to pay taxes with honey, but there were no honey taxes. It used to be as expensive as gold, only rich people could taste it. Today, taking into account the income rate, not all people can afford honey, they don’t consider it an essential product. As for its healing properties, people tend to buy some medicine which will help immediately rather than eat and use bee products every day as a precaution,” the beekeeper says.
Except for tasting events, the “Honey House” hosts lectures about bees, where adults and children can learn about an interesting world of a hive, it means they can learn to respect nature. “Some funny situations can happen during lectures. Once we were telling children about drones who seem to do nothing in a hive, some kid shouted out, “Exactly as my dad!” It was funny. I explained to children that father might have had some work anyway… But you know, if we worked like bees, we wouldn’t cope with their temp,” Liudmyla says. However, the Perests seem to work not less than any bee family. Moreover, they have many ideas about tasty and useful hive products: they wish they had enough time…
Apiary in mountains – the centre of positive energy
“Bees can teach us many things! But truly, we wouldn’t be able to work as hard! A working bee live only 3 days when it is a season!” Oleksandr Shymonia, a beekeeper from a mountainous village of Kolochava, which is at the Mizhhirria region. “Bees will never let a stranger in. There are guards at the entrance to a hive. They let in weak bees, those who bring nectar, they can even let strangers in, but they will never let in an aggressive bug. People should behave the same. And be harmonious as bees are,” the owner of a highland apiary says. He considers his bee kingdom a centre of positive energy.
Oleksandr needs a bee smoker to open a hive and see how much honey bees have produced. “Look at here: our bee family. As I pump out honey, I put some garlic or celandine on frames. These plants have many phytoncides, which help bees not to fall in ill. Look, how patient they are. I could do it without a bee smoker: these bees (karpatiankas) are exceptionally docile bugs. My bees are not hungry, so they can’t be aggressive. Guests are also not aggressive. Bees feel what is a person like. If a person is nervous or has a bad mood, it is better not to come here – they can sting. When I come to them tired and spend 20 minutes while working, I feel as I have rested. An apiary of 50 families is believed to influence a person positively within 200 meters. I am in the epicentre!”, Oleksandr smiles.
The beekeeper shows a big cell, “This is a honey – cerago frame. Cerago is a bee bread, it consists of many useful microelements. Something which is shining in slots is nectar, it is going to become honey.” The beekeeper tells how he protects families in winter which are the most threatened by humidity – he puts some pillows with modern filling which absorbs humidity but doesn’t give warmth to leave a hive, “A bee family can evaporate up to 15 litres of water in winter. The worst thing is to close a hive so bees will die because they won’t have enough air. Due to pillows, they can easily winter.”
“An apiary pulls up many positive people. It seems to make me meet interesting and kind people, it happens often that we become friends with our guests. Now, the teachers are staying here to improve their health. They are participants in the National Seminar on Education Innovations, which takes place in Kolochava. They have an opportunity to have a rest: they sleep in our apiary, it revitalizes a nervous system. I have three bee beds already. There are no such beds In Ukraine, they have vertical frames with six bee families in each, so a person is being healed by 300 thousand bees at once! I started with a bee bed which contained 3 bee families. I invented this construction by myself as well (Oleksandr is a carpenter).”
Sweet dreams… in a bee bed
“Bee therapy is, first of all, beneficial for a nervous system. It is rather a revitalization than kind of treatment. You shouldn’t say “I am ill, I need some treatment”, it is better to say “I am revitalizing, I will be healthy”, you should be aimed at a result,” the beekeeper says. “While people are resting in a bee bed, their nervous system is calming down, their blood circulation improves, so-called “blocks” disappear, it means their organism starts to self-revitalize. Bees help with their wattage, vibration. It is also aromatherapy. American researchers claim that a person’s biofield becomes five times as strong after some sleep “on bees”. Our guests say they feel like they have just been born – they want to live, create something, their apathy goes away, they feel inspirited! My family also make it, when we have time. I must say I have such interesting dreams when I lie in a hive!”
Oksana, a phycologist, was lying in a bee bed for an hour. She is full of positive emotions, “I am impressed! With these aroma, vibrations. It makes me so calm. I fell asleep immediately. I saw the special dreams which I want to encrypt! Moreover, I smell honey now!”
The Shymonias’ apiary is like a mini-resort. Guests are offered a revitalization in a bee bed, bee glue ointments, which regenerate skin and help joints. Guests can also taste a healing water with honey and home-made fruit vinegar, home-made wine with mountainous berries… The beekeeper believes that the apiary is a therapy, especially a mountainous one, with unforgettable landscapes of Kolochava and fresh air. As for bees, Oleksandr thinks they are nature miracles, by the way, he disproves that drones are not useful, “They are fertilizers, it is important. They take care of genetic variability of bee families. Nobody has made a research on drones’ role in a hive microclimate maintaining. I am sure, it is huge. Nature is intelligent, it doesn’t have anything odd, especially, in a hive! Everything here is perfect and ready to help people!”.
Text by Alla Haiatova
Photo by Serhii Hudak