Cyprus Mail

On the honey trail: Larnaca bee initiative

Honey factory at Oros Machaira
Nine villages got together to promotes one of their biggest assets: honey

By Annette Chrysostomou

Nine honey producing villages in the Larnaca region are part of a new project to promote bees and bee products.

Under the European Medfest programme with the Troodos Network of Thematic Centres as partner, Kato Drys, Kato Lefkara, Layia, Melini, Odou, Ora, Vavla, Vavatsinia and Agioi Vavatsinias have been branded with a shared identity and participation in what is called the ‘Honey Routes – Cyprus’ tourism programme.

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the earth then man will have only four years of life left. No more bees no pollination, not more plants, no more man,” Albert Einstein foretold years ago.

Which apart from the commercial aspect is a good reason for mountain villagers around Larnaca to promote the fact that their homes are more than just places to produce and sell honey, and a number of young and enthusiastic people are joining older, knowledgeable professionals in creating unique niches around the theme.

The project started to take shape three years ago, when the Larnaca tourism board asked locals involved in the business of keeping bees for their ideas on the subject.

The organisation took on board the local suggestions, and it was decided that each village would have its own approach, concentrating on one of the many uses of bees and beekeeping, so that they would not compete but complement each other.

“Together they promote the pastime of beekeeping; help to encourage and protect biodiversity through increased bee-attracting plants and offer visitors authentic experiences, from nature trails and annual bee-themed festivals, to bee hotels for solitary species that can be observed,” the Larnaca tourism development board said. “The villages are also active in promoting the beneficial properties of honey, including recipes, products and the inclusion of honey on local menus.”

A bee hotel

In Layia, with just 40 inhabitants, a British national has constructed a bee hotel, a construction made of local wood and bamboo.

“The bees rest here and leave their eggs and then they move on,” Peter said. The hotel is for solitary bees who don’t live in large colonies and do not have a queen.

After mating the female bees find a place which is suitable to dig or use bamboo cane or wood objects to lay her eggs inside, then seal off the opening of the entrance with mud.

There are similar hotels in other villages, and all are unique. What they have in common is that they are built from natural materials and do not contain any chemicals.

In nearby Vavla, locals offer a hands-on approach. They give out beekeeper protection suits which adults and children can wear to inspect the hives. Visitors have the chance to spot the bee queen, watch the worker bees do their work and to observe how these social insects are organised. At a candle making workshop people can create their own candle, choosing among a variety of aromatic herbs and essential oils to add to the wax.

Melini is another small village in the area, with 70 inhabitants, but a relatively large number of them, 12, are children. Which gave the villagers the idea to concentrate on kids as their contribution to the bee theme.

Every year, they organise a honey festival for children, and have published a little book explaining to kids how useful bees are and why it is so important to protect them.

They have just the right person to distribute the books: a 10-year-old boy in a beekeepers’ protection suit.

Their local bee hotel has of course been built by children.

Honey products on sale at Melini village where the focus is also on appealing to children

Odou, a bigger village in the region, has found yet another way to disseminate information on the subject. The locals created a ‘Journey of knowledge about bees’, a walk through the village during which several boards list a number of ‘bee facts’.

There are more traditional approaches, one of which can be found in Kato Drys, which is home to a bee museum. Housed in a 300-year-old residence, it displays artifacts alongside information and displays related to bees and local beekeeping practices.

Apart from the sale of bee products on a small scale which is part of all the villages, as along with the display of information locals need to make a living, there is also a bigger outlet, Oros Machaira, which houses modern machinery, and offers many types of treated and untreated honey.

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