GARESNICA, Croatia, Sept. 24 (Reuters) – A family in Croatia has opened a “bee hotel” offering productive beehives for sale to customers who want to keep bees but do not have the time or space to care for the tiny pollinators themselves take care of.
Domagoj Balja says the company is responding to the growing curiosity of its honey buyers about its production at a time when beekeeping is suffering from a global decline in bee populations.
At agricultural fairs, the farmer said: “We were asked so often: ‘Is your honey really homemade?’ … As experienced beekeepers, we felt a bit excited, even offended.”
“Then my wife and I came up with the idea of letting people learn with their own beehives,” says Balja, whose family has kept bees for decades.
The family from Garesnica in northeastern Croatia is offering people who want their own homemade honey a three-year contract worth 2,500 kuna (US $ 391.32).
“They can buy a beehive from us and we will take care of them for them, and during those three years they own half of the honey production,” he said. “We collect the honey from the beehive together. In good times, a beehive can produce around 30 kilograms of honey (per year), ”says Balja.
25 customers currently own bees on the farm. While most are from Croatian cities, some come from further afield, including a pilot from Dubai and a soccer coach from Jeddah.
“This aspect of our work is not really about accumulating profits, but teaching people about beekeeping,” said Balja, who ultimately wants 40 ‘hotel’ customers.
Owners can move their beehive elsewhere after three years, although finding another location may not be easy.
Last year Nena Salopek bought a beehive and harvested four kg of honey for herself. It “tastes perfect,” she said, despite worries about the effects of climate change on bee productivity.
Bees are essential for fertilizing plants and are threatened by human activities, including the use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as climate change.
Balja said this year was the worst year for honey production in decades, after snow and frost in the spring. “In the spring we had to feed the bees so they wouldn’t starve, which has never happened to us,” he said.
($ 1 = 6.3887 kuna)
Reporting by Antonio Bronic and Igor Ilic, editing by William Maclean
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