The Tradition of Beekeeping in Ukraine

Ukraine has a long history of beekeeping and is well known in international apiculture circles for the superb quality of its honey and other bee related products. Ranked as the number one producer in Europe and among the top five in the world, Ukraine produces as much as 75,000 metric tons of honey each year and continues to win numerous awards for the quality of its products.

Beekeeping in Ukraine dates back to the era of Kievan Rus’ in the Middle Ages and was recorded in detail in the country’s first Code of Laws, Russka Pravda, by Yaroslav the Wise. In addition to appreciating the therapeutic benefits of honey, people back then enjoyed a honey-based brew called ‘mead’, which is still very popular today. The patron saints of beekeeping are St Savvatiy and St Zosima who are often depicted in pictures with beekeeping equipment and beehives in the background and in the past it was common to see icons of these two saints prominently displayed at apiaries.

Ukrainian scientist and beekeeper, Petro Prokopovych, constructed the first frame hive in January 1814 – although some credit American Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth for this invention – and this became the most efficient and productive way to keep bees. Prokopovych also opened the first school of beekeeping at which he taught rural people the art of beekeeping, as well as helping them to gain literacy and arithmetic skills. Named in honor of Prokopovych, the Institute of Beekeeping National Research Center oversees scientific research programs and ensures the latest information is available to beekeepers in Ukraine.

Beekeeping is a skill that has been handed down from one generation to the next, each keeping the tradition alive, while embracing the latest technologies and trends in this interesting trade. The National Beekeeping Museum at the P I Prokopovych Institute of Beekeeping provides insight into the past, while detailing the progress that has been made over the years, and is worth a visit by anyone interested in apiculture.

Kiev was the host city for the XXXXIII International Apimondia Congress, which took place from the 29th of September to the 3rd of October 2013. More than 8,000 delegates from over 100 countries attended in what has been described as the biggest event in Ukraine’s history of beekeeping. The Apimondia Congress was first held in 1895 and has been held every two years since then, with different countries hosting each event. The event’s scientific program was entitled Beyond the Hive: Beekeeping and Global Challenges, with more than 1,000 scientists from 85 countries attending and participating. In addition to lectures, workshops and round table discussions, the event had more than 200 exhibitors representing a diverse range of equipment and products – in fact anything and everything the modern beekeeper needs for successful beekeeping.