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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I began my 11th year of beekeeping in April 2016. Now there are about 1275 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

So Why Go to Lithuania on a Beekeeping Tour?

One might well ask.

I got an email from Simona Cibirkaite at the Visit Lithuania travel agency in Vilnius.  The trip sounded interesting and I thought it would be neat to meet beekeepers from another country.

When Julia, Noah and I signed up for this, it sounded like a lark and lots of fun.  We've travelled together before - to a beekeeping conference in Massachusetts last summer and every year to Young Harris where although we don't drive up together, we hang out for the whole conference.

My mother was certain I was never coming back home.  My children wanted to know where my will was.  My son-in-law was sure it would be like the tours in Everything is Illuminated.  But despite all of the doubt from others, we had a fabulous experience in Lithuania and I'd love to go back again.  What a gorgeous countryside and what interesting beekeeping traditions were there!

When we got there, we were so pleasantly surprised to find out that beekeeping is a cornerstone of Lithuanian history and culture.  Our wonderful guide, Lukas, explained on the first day that beekeeping has been an important part of Lithuania for hundreds of years (I think he may have said thousands!).  The goddess of beekeeping,  Austėja, is a very common girl's name in Lithuania.

There are actually two gods of beekeeping in that country, Austėja (pronounced ous-stay-uh) who is the goddess of fertility and a protector.  In 2005 Austeja was the fifth most popular girl's name in the country, according to Wikipedia.  
Here is Austeja:
  At Romas' bee museum

 Austeja at the museum of ancient beekeeping on our next to last day.

The other pagan god was Babilas - he was like a drone - a sort of good for nothing consumer, gluttenous and hairy.  
And here is Babilas:


There was reverence for the colony in the hive and they were called in the Lithuanian language the family.  This is still how beekeepers refer to the colony.  The beekeeper at the Nine Honey Apiary that we visited kept talking about the family in each hive.  The queen was called in Lithuanian, the mother - motina or motinella (little mother). 

 In Lithuanian the word for death for bees is the same as the word for death for humans.  They have a different word for death for other animal and insect species.   In other words, in the Lithuanian language, the bee is held in as high esteem as the human, unlike other species. 

Here is a great write-up about how the bee museum guide describes the bee/human relationship.

At our candle-making workshop (photos in another post), the guide told us that the beekeeper was revered in Lithuanian society at the same level as the priest.  People removed their hats when they saw the beekeeper.  In a community, if there was a need, the beekeeper often sat as judge over disputes.  

When the bees would swarm, the beekeepers followed the swarms and made friends with the people on whose land the swarms took up residence.  Sometimes marriages were made through following the swarm.  Even today, although people in Lithuania may not realize the origin of the word, best friends are called bičiulis - which is a derivative of the word for bee: bite - and means dear fellow beekeeper.  Simona, the tour director, wrote us just yesterday with the emails for the beekeepers whom we visited and suggested that we might become “biciuliai” with them.

The Lithuanians sold stones of wax that each weighed 16 kilos all through Europe.  The purchasers needed the wax to make cannons and bells, using the lost wax process.  Lithuania was the biggest producer of wax and honey in all of Europe.  

Side note:  We didn't learn much Lithuanian while we were there, but our guide, Lukas, taught us to count to ten.  We also learned and said a lot, the Lithuanian word for thank you that sounds like "Achoo."  The other person responds, "Brashom," which often to me sounded like "Bless You."  So we went around saying Achoo and receiving Bless You throughout our journey!



5 comments:

  1. Thank you, Achoo, Thank you!
    Thank you for being a beekeeper. Achoo for taking the Lithuanian tour. Thank you for being a blogger & sharing your knowledge.
    Being of Lithuanian decent, I have been searching for interesting venues & tours while planning a future trip. This tour really piqued my interest. So does your blog. Will be looking into both. My niece is a beekeeper in Spokane, WA. Maybe she will be interested in coming along on our trip. Thanks again.
    Betty Gleason

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  2. What a wonderful story. Lithuania is a hotspot for meadmaking as well -- was mead tasting part of the bee tour?

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  3. Hello Linda,
    I found this wonderful description of the bee tour in Lithuania, may I translate and publish it (with your pictures) on my web-blog? It's not for commercial use, I am only trying to write about Lithuania in general and find bee tourism very interesting. I will send you the link of my blog once it's done. Let me know, thanks !

    ReplyDelete
  4. Of course you may - just give me credit, please, for the writing and the photos. Send the link to beekeeperlinda@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Beekeeping is very common in Lithuania. Our grandfathers who are living in village most of them are keeping bees, because lithuanian people likes honey. If you're going in beekeeping tour Lithuania you'll see many interesting things.

    ReplyDelete

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