Erik Luznar Beekeeping

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Erik Luznar is one of the youngest professional beekeepers in Slovenia. He registered as a farmer beekeeper in 2014 at the age of 25. Beekeeping has been in his family for four generations, but Erik is the first who makes his living exclusively from bees. He learned almost everything from his father when he helped him as a child, but the idea to follow in his footsteps came to fruition when he was a student of journalism. “You become really fond of beekeeping per se, it just grows on you through the years; then you see you can live off it and suddenly it’s more than a hobby.”

“You become really fond of beekeeping per se, it just grows on you through the years; then you see you can live off it and suddenly it’s more than a hobby.”

He keeps between 250 and 300 bee colonies at six different locations: the one beehive that he does not move is in Draga, whereas other hives — mobile units — are kept in nearby apiaries and moved across Slovenia through the season. He uses AŽ beehives; movable frames allow him to oversee his bee colonies and react promptly when he sees they need help. In the past he also had traditional Carniolan beehives called kranjiči, but he abandoned them because he could not move the combs, which was both inconvenient and time-consuming. His kranjič beehives are now displayed on the old family trailer that stands in front of the house, with beehive panels that he got hand-painted with local motifs.
Erik is the president of the Karavanke Begunje beekeepers’ society and organises training courses, guided tours of good practices and honey measurements; the society members participate in the Traditional Slovenian Breakfast campaign and visit local kindergartens and schools every year.

The beekeeping season begins at the end of July after the last pasture and honey extraction, and this is when Erik lays the foundations for the next year. In autumn he checks if there’s enough food in the beehives and feeds the bees with sugar syrup; he fights against varroa, replaces queen bees in weak colonies and combines weak colonies with stronger ones so that they can survive the winter better. He covers the hives with blankets and reduces their volume. He does not open the hives in winter, but only checks them on his rounds. At home he restores the comb frames and boils the beeswax, which he takes to the apiary centre Lesce to be disinfected and has new comb foundations made there. He turns his attention to marketing and making new business contacts; he takes time to attend training courses and visit different trade fairs.
In spring he returns to his bee colonies and starts spending more time in the apiary. Now begins intensive production of honey, royal jelly, pollen and propolis; he breeds queen bees and bee families. May and June are the most hectic. Erik moves the bees to pasture. Knowing where specific trees grow, when they blossom and when the honeydew flows come is essential, and he has to keep track of the weather as well. He regularly checks on his bees to make sure they are not hungry; he prevents swarming and collects hive products.

Bees give him honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and beeswax. He produces forest and linden honey as well as acacia, chestnut, spruce and fir honey, depending on the season. He is a registered breeder of autochthonous Carniolan grey bee queens. This race has very good characteristics and the demand for it is high. Pedigree queens are particularly appreciated in Northern Europe. Erik sells bee colonies as well; in spring he sells most of them in Slovenia to beginner beekeepers and those who lost bee colonies in the winter, and some colonies are also sold abroad.
His father already made a name for himself exporting bees and queens across Yugoslavia. Erik’s name is therefore an established one and marketing costs are accordingly low. His honey regularly wins the highest awards in beekeeping competitions and Erik sees them as one of the best promotional tools, next to satisfied customers, of course. “Selling honey and other products is much easier at the moment than producing it.”
He keeps a small shop at home, but sells his products also to kindergartens, schools, restaurants, municipalities, tourist attractions and fairs. Every year, people from all over the world visit his farm and, in the future, he would like to focus more on tourism as well.