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A SHORT BEEKEEPING HISTORY
There are no indigenous Apis species in Finland. The first records show that the earliest bees were black bees (Apis mellifera mellifera). They were imported from Estonia and Sweden in the 18th century. The first Italian bees (A. m. ligustica) were imported in 1866 and the Caucasian bee (A. m. caucasica) probably arrived in 1953. The first movable frame hive was imported in 1867 and the Langstroth hive in 1906.
The first beekeepers started in the southwestern part of Finland and later in south and central Finland. During the last decade beekeeping has spread to northeastern Finland. Around 50% of the bees are still located in the southern part of Finland. However, beekeeping in Finland, is being practised as far north as the polar circle.
A FEW STATISTICS
The total number of bee colonies in Finland is about 50,000. With approximatly 3,500 beekeepers (2,800 organised) to take care of them.Beekeeping is a hobby for more than 80% of the beekeepers. Only 6% have more than 50 colonies and professional beekeepers there are around 2%. About 85% of the hives are Langstroth, 10 % Zander and the rest are of mixed types.
The number of professional beekeepers has increased during the last five years. There are some 400 semi-professional and professional beekeepers now. A beekeeper is considered professional if he has more than 100 colonies. The biggest beekeeper has over 1,000 colonies.Two thirds of the bee colonies are Italian, 25% hybrids, 5% Carnica, 2% Buckfast and 3% Black. Other races are very rare but the carniolan bees have become more popular in the last few years.
The climate is temperate and very variable due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. This makes weather forecasting for beekeepers very difficult. Beekeepers can never be sure when the main honey flow will materialise. Normally July is the warmest month and February the coldest. Winter for bees starts in late September and ends in late April, making the wintering period 6-7 months. For a good wintering every hive needs to be feed from 22 to 25 kg sugar. The nectar collecting season is at its maximum for only two to three months, the main flow usually lasts from the 15th of June to the 30th of July.
The only widely cultivated bee plant is the spring rapeseed (Brassica rapa). In early May bees can collect the first pollen and nectar from the willows (Salix).The main honey flowers are the following in blooming order: dandelion (Taraxacum), raspberry (Rubus), rapeseed (Brassica), clovers (Trifolium), fire weed (Epilobium) and in some areas ling heather (Calluna). Honeydew honey is of minor significance. In the last few years many plants like phacelia, alfalfa, sunflower etc. have been cultivated for green manure or fallow.
The total Finnish honey crop has varied around 1,800 tons annually (1995: 2,100 tons, 1996: 1,100 tons). Average production per colony for the whole country is usually 40 kilos.
Sales of honey are clearly divided into three markets. About one third of the honey is sold directly by the beekeepers to the consumers. Another third covers the honey sold to retailers and the rest for the packers.
THE FINNISH BEEKEEPERS' ASSOCIATION is a central organisation of 38 local affiliated associations. The central association was originally founded in 1916 and a after a period of two separate organisations it has again been funktioning since 1983.
The most common diseases are nosema, chalk brood, European and American foulbroods. We have had varroa over 25 years and Acarapis woodi was found in the summer in 1991.
BEE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
Resources for bee research in Finland are very limited. Permanent bee research at the Agricultural Research Center began in 1974. The investigation and beekeeping section at Jokioinen does research on Varroa jacobsoni, pollination, queen breeding and Acarapis woodi. The varroa research is part of a Nordic project.
Honey bee research is also conducted at the University of Helsinki, in the Department of Agricultural and Forest Zoology. Here the research deals with wintering studies, honey and pollen analyses. This department is the only place to obtain university level training concerning bees and beekeeping.
The Finnish Beekeepers' Association arranges courses in basic beekeeping, diseases and queen rearing annually.The magazine "Mehilainen" is also published for association members seven times a year (language Finnish, with occasional summaries in English and Swedish).
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