Did you know that Dr. Filip Terč (1844 -1917), a doctor and beekeeper from Maribor, who successfully cured 543 out of his 658 of patients suffering from rheumatic diseases, is considered the father of modern apitherapy? For several years, his birthday, 30 March, has been celebrated as World Apitherapy Day.
This is one of the reasons why Slovenia decided to organise the international forum under the auspices of Apimondia at the end of this September that will be held under the ‘Keeping Healthy through Bees’ motto. This forum, which will undoubtedly be the biggest international beekeeping event in 2010, will bring together the greatest experts from the field of apitherapy and techniques of obtaining healthy bee products. These experts will present the latest findings of their research. In order to bring the event closer to the general public, national and international beekeepers and others, the technical consultations will be accompanied by the API-EXPO international beekeeping exhibition offering various workshops and popular lectures dealing with a variety of topics. This will be a true beekeeping festival aimed at bringing the bees and their general benefits for human kind closer to all generations, young and old.
In the second half of the previous century, the Medex company from Ljubljana, specialising in bee products, organised three highly noted international symposia on apitherapy, meaning Slovenian beekeepers have quite a tradition in this field. The Apimondia 2003 congress was another wonderful experience, as many of its former participants from all parts of the world still remember that it was a congress with soul. We hope to again give soul to this year's Apimedica and Apiquality forum.
Similar to in other developed countries, official medical science in Slovenia looks upon apitherapy with distrust and keeps its distance. The greatest reproach that some doctors make is that healing substances in bee products are not standardised and they change from year to year and from one place to the other. This is very true. Each Aspirin Plus C tablet contains exactly 400mg of acetylsalicylic acid and 240mg of ascorbic acid or vitamin C, regardless of whether it was manufactured in Germany or anywhere else, this year or five years from now. Fresh willow pollen contains both of these active ingredients and current observations show that it has more beneficial effects for people than Aspirin, but each year, the quantity of these two important components differs. And this is why such pollen cannot be recognised as a drug.
It is interesting that official medical science recognises immense power in pollen and bee venom. The first can confine a person with allergies to bed and incapacitate him for weeks. A single bee sting can kill every two hundredth resident of Slovenia who is allergic if medical care is not received on time. But beekeepers know that both pollen and bee products can help prevent or even treat various diseases, as previously stated. Most doctors do not see this, do not know it or refuse to learn about it. Perhaps they will change their minds if we manage to bring them as listeners to this year’s forum. This is why we have invited the best experts to hold lectures, as they will present strong scientific evidence of the usefulness of bees for our health.
In defence of official medical science, however, it needs to be said that certain improvements are evident: an increasing number of doctors have been successfully using honey to treat wounds.
With our ‘Keeping Healthy Through Bees’ slogan, we wish to express that it is not only bee products that maintain and improve our health, but bees themselves are important for people and our life of harmony. Beekeeping groups have been operating in Slovenian primary and secondary schools for decades, allowing children to come together once a week and learn about the life of the bees, especially in winter, while in the spring and summer, children get to participate in working with the school beehives. Of course, not all students are members of these groups - only the ones that are particularly interested in bees. With time, many of them become good beekeepers and members of our organisation. Once a young person accepts bees into his heart, he is less likely to be tempted by the dangers of the modern world, such as alcohol, drugs and crime.
There are even cases when young people suffering from severe depression, without a goal in their life and burdened by suicidal thoughts have found new meaning in life through working with bees and with the help of a patient beekeeper. While receiving drug treatment in state institutions, such young people had made no progress until they came into close contact with bees, and then completely changed within a single year.
Slovenia still has something that has already almost disappeared in Germany, Switzerland and Austria: our beehouses. The German beekeeper and Chairman of the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf Beekeeping Association, Erika Mayr, who together with her partner Stephane Orsolini won an international competition in 2008 introducing the idea of setting up beehouses and transferring vacant land into bee pastures in the City of Detroit, wrote: “Slovenian beekeepers have managed to preserve beehives that Germany has already lost. They preserve part of a beautiful and old European tradition.” She said this after seeing the Land of the Good Beekeepers book, which won the gold medal at Apimondia 2009 and features photos of our most magnificent beehouses.
Speaking of beehouses, these are true apitherapy chambers full of tantalising smells of honey accompanying a good collection of nectar. The feelings of a beekeeper, who lies down behind the beehives after his work is done, opening the doors of the beehives and allowing the divine scents and the regular hum of hundreds of thousands of bees to overcome him, is indescribable. For him, this is the most beautiful symphony, setting his mind at ease and filling him with new energy.
Yes, in many European countries, beehouses live only in the memory of older beekeepers. These countries had to make room in the name of progress, as only Langstroth hives are considered modern, and these do not require a beehouse. I hope that beehouses continue to adorn our country for a long time ennobling it with their appearance. As many beekeepers see their beehouses as their sanctuaries, they will never allow them to be torn down, as something like that should never happen to a sanctuary. After all, beehouses are, as we have seen, precious health resorts for the body and mind.
Slovenian beekeepers invite all readers to come to Slovenia at the end of September and experience our beekeeping festival in a friendly atmosphere.
More about the Apimedica and Apiquality forum is available online at http://www.go-mice.eu/ or http://www.czs.si/
Vice-President of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association