Summer might not be honey-sweet in Latvia

The Latvian eastern region of Latgale has started this summer with dry and hot weather. Beekeeper Inese Zeiļuka from the eastern border area told Latvian Radio that although many think bees like the hot weather, it is not true in extreme cases and honey harvesting might not go well.

The cool spring with frosts and then the first half of the hot and dry summer is worrying not only Latgale farmers, but also the beekeepers, because, as Inese Zeiļuka of Ludza municipality Malnava parish acknowledged, they have not yet got new honey because the amount of honey harvested by bees is still very small.

“I have about 40 hives, there could be 45 at the moment. We try to hang on to that number of bees. The main place of the apiary is Nesteri at home, then there is Morozovka village, where there are no inhabitants, but there are bees. And then some in Salnava,” Zeiļuka said.

The beginning of summer has not been good for bees.

"At the moment, bees collect nectar from the flowers of the meadow, also elsewhere that's blooming. Given these extreme drought conditions, it is very difficult to say where they can harvest honey, because each plant has its own conditions where they give nectar at all. When there is such hot and dry weather, it is most common that plants do not really give nectar at all. Bees have it tough at the moment. [..] In the spring, the weather for bees might not have been as bad as it was now. At the moment, this dry weather is affecting them more than spring with the cold."

Inese turned to beekeeping only a couple of years ago, taking a radical decision to switch from office work to home production. But bees and honey have always been an integral part of life in her family. Inese's father, Anatolijs Zeiļuks, acknowledged that he now relied on his daughter's farming methods, while he helped to keep them in good physical shape.

"While I move, I'm alive. I have health that also comes from the bee. At the moment, if a bee stings me, I don't pull it out for half an hour. So I'm walking with so all the venom absorbs. I make all the equipment I need for beekeeping myself. I have a wood-processing workshop where frame-ups, bee hulls, hives, rooftops, floors come to be," Zeiļuks said.

Inese also agreed that beekeeping is not just honey. Other healthy products can also be prepared.

“For me, the favorite product I cook is apple vinegar, which is made of honey and apples in the process of fermentation. In addition, I was still fascinated by the production of wax products, the wax tincture. I was also preparing my natural cosmetics with honey, propolis, and wax,” the beekeeper said.

Member of the Board of the Latvian Beekeepers Society, Valters Brusbārdis, noted that in Latvia the beginning of this summer has been hopeful enough for beekeepers, but it should also be noted that the weather conditions on which honey yields are very dependent may vary greatly in the territory of the country.

"This year winter rapeseed bloomed very well in Latvia, and I think spring harvest is good. Was it affected by the frost? I think it affected us less than other farmers. It's been good enough for spring. But now the season continues, it is very dry and will affect plants' ability to exfoliate nectar. We usually have the harvest in Latvia until the end of July," said Brusbārdis.

More than 100 thousand beehives are registered in Latvia, and honey is also exported, the most demanded being linden and buckwheat honey. This year, according to beekeeper estimates, local honey yields won't be as good as they have been in recent years. But in the end, you can never tell with bees.

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