Busy bees and people in Lajen
In recent years, we have become more aware of the importance of bees for nature and our food supply. In May, we were guests of a couple in Lajen who gave us interesting insights into the world of bees and let us taste honey from their apiary.
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the bees are buzzing. A perfect day to get to know Petra Lorenzetto and Werner Rungaldier, the people behind the beehives at Petra's Honey Hut. Petra's Honey Hut is located above the Isarco Valley, directly on the hiking trail from Albions (municipality of Lajen) to Gufidaun (municipality of Klausen), between woods and meadows.
Petra and Werner currently have around 100 beehives. Most of them "migrate" – in other words, they are taken to where there are lots of flowers. In June, for example, when the alpine roses are in bloom, up to an altitude of around 2,000 metres. Unfortunately, the couple did not harvest any alpine rose honey in the last three years due to the unfavourable weather. Bees do not fly out below 10 degrees Celsius, and they do not like wind or prolonged rain. Surprisingly for us, it is not only certain weather conditions that can make bees aggressive, but also mobile phones.
Beekeeper with heart and soul
Werner's interest in beekeeping was awakened by his grandfather, a passionate beekeeper. Petra and Werner met while studying at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, where beekeeping was a subject on Petra's degree exam.
After building a house and starting a family, the time was ripe for them to start their own beekeeping business. They started 15 years ago with 3 beehives. The whole family is now involved: Werner as a trained beekeeper, Petra alongside her part-time job as a teacher and also the 4 sons.
If you would like to try the different varieties, from lime blossom honey to chestnut honey and other bee products, it is best to call Petra's Honey Hut in Lajen and make an appointment.
Incidentally, Petra and Werner's joint favourite honey is forest honey. It is not made from the collected flower nectar, but from honeydew: this is secreted by insects that feed on the sap of the trees.
The healing power of nature
A new product in the range is beeiMMUN: it consists of a honey mixture, propolis extract and echinecea tincture. Both Echinecea purpurea (red coneflower) and propolis (bee resin) are said to have a strengthening effect on the immune system. From May to July, you can also call Petra's Honey Hut to make an appointment for beehive air therapy.
An appointment lasts 30 minutes, during which the air from 3 different beehives is inhaled via an inhalation device. If the air were to be extracted from a single hive for half an hour, this would be too much stress for the bee colony. Several therapy appointments are particularly recommended if you suffer from a respiratory disease.
A busy early summer
The first honey of the year has already been extracted at Petra's Honey Hut, and we get to taste it. The blossom honey has a golden colour and a mild taste.
Although it does not remain as liquid as forest honey, it retains its spreadability if it is stirred daily for several days before bottling.
In addition to spinning, the beekeeper's tasks in early summer include preventing swarming and the targeted reproduction and rejuvenation of the bee colonies by breeding queens and building up a young colony.
Swarming is a natural way for bees to reproduce: shortly before the new queen bee hatches, the old queen bee leaves the hive with part of her colony and looks for a new home. For various reasons, most beekeepers try to prevent swarming and therefore monitor their colonies closely in May and June so that they can intervene in good time.
No apples without bees
Beekeepers in South Tyrol and throughout Europe do not work with just any bees, but with the European or Western honey bee (Apis mellifera). However, wild bees also play an important role in the pollination of many plants, such as fruit trees.
You can help them by creating nesting sites in your garden: e.g. with rotten wood, dry raspberry canes or bee hotels. Avoiding pesticides in your garden is not only beneficial for wild bees and honeybees. And a variety of native flowers, shrubs and trees with different flowering times will delight you with blossoms from spring to autumn and also make it easier for bees to find food.