Turkey ranks third of largest honey producing countries in the world and after I unexpectedly met a local beekeeper in Maral; I am surprised they are not number one. Personally, I think the bloke is mad to do the beekeeping job using his unorthodox methods but hey, this is Turkey and they do produce some of the sweetest honey on the market
There is nothing fancy about beekeeping in Turkey. That is until you learn the specifics of how they do it. As a passer-by, you will see locals have constructed large open sheds with shelves to place the hives on, away from the ground and any bears with ideas of doing a Winnie the Pooh impression. You think nothing of it but bees in this region are special.
The Pure Caucasian Queen Bee of Maçahel
Maral is part of the Maçahel province, of which half is in Turkey and the other half in Georgia. In 1998, scientists wanted to know why Maçahel was producing more and better quality honey than other regions. The answer was because the bees are pure Caucasian.
The Caucasian queen bee in particular has a longer proboscis, used to gather nectar from the plants. It also works harder than other breeds. Combine these facts with natural plants and flowers that are in abundance in Maçahel, and you have the perfect business model to create and sell top quality honey and generate employment in local communities. So the Tema project started
This beekeeper bought a queen bee from the Tema project, who help to produce more of the breed by artificially inseminating bees in a laboratory with the pure Caucasian gene. He placed her in a small box within the hive as rejection can sometimes be an issue. In between the bees and the queen bee was a small piece of cake. Over time, the cake was eaten away and the relationship between the queen and the workers grew. She was accepted and released into the hive to start work.
Due to the proven results and success of the pure Caucasian queen bee, locals can sign up for a beekeeping course with Tema, therefore embarking on a new career. Beekeepers from other regions can also purchase a queen bee and honey from Macahel is associated with quality, one jar selling for as much as 40 Turkish liras, if not more.
Equipment Needed For Beekeeping in Turkey
None! I wore no gloves, jacket, or hat with a protective hood. Dressed in a short sleeve t-shirt and trousers, hundreds of bees were swarming around my head. The constant buzzing made me nervous and when the beekeeper picked up bees by their wings, I wondered if he liked the thrill of potential pain, inflicted on his body parts.
If this had been any other place or time and I was with numerous friends, at this point, we would all be running around in circles or down the mountain screaming our heads off. The beekeeper was quite confident there was no need to panic. He has never been stung in all the years he has been doing the job and assured me the smoking tool would keep the bees calm.
If you visit the Maçahel region, do take time out to visit one of the local beekeepers. We did not arrange any appointment, just came across a man while we were walking the country roads. However, like other locals in Turkey, he gladly spent time with us and showed fantastic hospitality despite my uncontrolled enthusiasm and excitement.
If you do not manage to make it to the region, here is further reading that explains why Maçahel really does excel when it comes to beekeeping.
An American Expat who has become a beekeeper in Turkey
The Macahel Website explaining more about beekeeping in the region