Honey Around the World: The Beekeepers of Hungary

Beekeepers in Hungary

While Hungary is a relatively small country, it is an incredible beekeeper nation, containing the second-highest bee population in Europe. In fact, the Hungarian Beekeepers Federation coordinates an international advisory network providing advice and support to all European Union nations.

Honey production is stalled in Hungary even though many more bee colonies are in the country. For example, 30 years ago, there were 500,000 to 600,000 colonies in Hungary, while today there are 1.2 million. However, honey production has not increased.

According to the Hungarian Beekeepers Association, 2020 has been a bad year for honey production, mainly due to bad weather conditions. Both bees and plants hone in on specific weather cues, like snow-melt or air temperature, to let them know when spring has sprung. If weather patterns and temperatures shift beyond the norm, plants and bees may become out of sync, resulting in bees emerging long after the plants are ready to be pollinated.

The Beekeepers Federation, working with a research group on honeybee breeding and biology, had 100 beekeepers collect data about climate factors, blooming time, and honey harvest results. Since 2008, the network equips members with meteorological data collectors and publishes this data online. This data helps beekeepers produce honey more efficiently by helping them make more accurate predictions about blooming times and allow them to better transport the bees for maximum honey production.

The Honeybees of Hungary

Hungary's native bee variety is the Carniolan bee. They are also the second most popular honeybee among European beekeepers (the Italian bee is the most popular). They are known for a calm temperament and for being resistant to diseases and parasites.

The Carniolan bee can adjust their worker population to nectar availability. They grow explosively in the spring during honey harvest and reduce its size when nectar is no longer available. This population management and busy worker bees that will gather nectar on cooler days allow for up to a 15 percent higher honey production than the Italian bee.