Fun Facts: History of Beekeeping – Ukraine

Wine may be the “nectar of the Gods” for some, but in Ukraine, honey is the essential ambrosia for both its sweetening taste and medicinal properties. Propolis, a sticky substance that bees collect from tree buds and barks, is commonly sold in pharmacies for the treatment of sores and stomach ulcers and many swear by the curative properties of bee venom to alleviate rheumatism. Indeed, annual exports of over 15,000 tons of honey manufactured from 3 million beehives place Ukraine behind only China, Argentina, and the United States in honey production.

Beekeeping, widespread in Ukraine since ancient times, experienced a renaissance during the first half of the 19th century due to the efforts of Peter Prokopovych, a landowner with a passion for the habits of bees. Prokopovych’s inventions, the first dismountable beehive frame and wooden partitions upon which bees make their honeycombs, ensuring minimal disruption to bee families and copious honey production, have not changed significantly to this day. The most popular beehive in Ukraine resembles a large chest, containing between 20 and 28 frames. Honey is extracted from the hive by removing the frames and transporting the parts to a honey house.

Today, the practice of beekeeping thrives at the hands of agricultural professionals and hobbyists alike. The Ukrainian Institute of Beekeeping is named after Prokopovych and boasts both an agricultural training regimen and a museum. One person in a thousand claims to be a beekeeper, including President Victor Yuschenko, an ardent enthusiast with a family history of apiary cultivation. In recognition of this time-honored tradition, since its independence in 1992 Ukraine has released a number of stamp issues depicting bees collecting pollen and beekeeping scenes ensuring that the efforts of this country’s hard-working insect friends will never go unappreciated.