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Friday, November 18, 2011

Traditional beekeeping

The tradition of beekeeping has not just been rooted in the island of Kea since antiquity, but in my family as well. Of course, my own knowledge of beekeeping only dates back to my great-grandfather, as told in my father’s narratives.

Needless to say, the beehives of back when had nothing in common with those of today. In my grandfather’s time, beekeepers used a large clay pot with a slit at the bottom that allowed the bees to get in and out. The top part was sealed with a large, flat stone, while, for better insulation and in order to get a perfect fit, beekeepers would place the pot on a bed of spurge, a thick, thorny bush that grows in abundance on the island.

Honey collection is still difficult today, and one can only imagine how hard it was at the time, when there were no mechanical tools available and everything had to be done by hand. Of course, families at the time were large, and my grandfather had eight brothers and five sisters. They had few tools at their disposal and there was very little to protect them from bee stings. To smoke the bees out of the hive, they would use a clay smoker and use their mouths. For protection they would wear a hood over their heads, leaving their arms and hands exposed. The bee’s sting may be considered curative, but this does not make it any less painful.

The extraction of the honey was done by squeezing the comb by hand. This is a tiring and lengthy process that yields few results as the bees then need to rebuild the comb from scratch. Nevertheless, this was the only way they knew how to do it.

Stamatis Paouris
Traditional Beekeeper

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