If one ever meets a fellow Lithuanian deep in the German mountains, the first thought to come to mind is that this is a mountaineer, a botanist or a wild adventurer. However, few would think that this might be a beekeeper that made the trip with a specially-prepared van all the way from Lithuania. And not on his own, with a whole entourage of mini nucleus hives full of young, day-old queens and their royal attendants. As Vilius, the beekeeper in question, quips, they have arrived for a wedding – at a bee mating station 700 m above sea level.
Distance is no obstacle
A little over 1.5 thousand kilometres to the destination and back just as many. Twice. Let’s be honest here, you have to be slightly crazy to make such a trip and with a host of buzzing passengers to boot. However, the trip isn’t all that difficult, say the sibling beekeepers Ignas and Vilius Jackevičius, if you’re prepared and have a goal. For the convenience of the bees, the travel van was equipped with special cooling equipment – a conditioner for the bees that ensured a journey that was safe, comfortable and caused as little stress as possible. And the end result, the fruits of which the beekeeping brothers are quietly happy about, made all the trouble worth it.
The young beekeepers were drawn to Germany by their love for their work, the search for the ideal bee and the goal of becoming the best, most advanced and science-based contemporary beekeepers and breeders around. Currently, the twins are behind one of the few Lithuanian beekeeping enterprises not only breeding but selling their home-grown pure-bred Buckfast queens. Because queen bees are born with half of their chromosome set from their father and half from their mother, they had to mate their Buckfast queens with Buckfast drones – something that would have been impossible in Lithuania, where there are no mountains or islands. At the mating station in the German mountains, 700 metres above sea level, only Buckfast bees are bred, and no other bees inhabit the area within a radius of 20 kilometres. This ensures the purity of the breed and the preservation of its characteristic qualities. Only such queen bees can be used for breeding, finding the ideal bee with the best qualities and entrenching its gene pool.
No other breed of bee was so sought after by the brothers as the Buckfast bee. They say they are perfect: clean, peaceful and friendly, almost purring like kittens when stroked. Apart from their gentle tempers, they are productive gatherers of honey and builders of strong colonies that aren’t inclined to swarm or cause other kinds of mischief. The beekeepers will monitor and breed the queen bees that were successfully mated at the mating station – only the very best queens will be assigned to rearing new Buckfast queens, which in turn will be sent off to honeymoon in Germany as well. The queen bees they breed are either used at the Brolių Medus bee farm or sold to other beekeepers who have an appreciation for the breed or are novices, for whom the bees’ docile temperament is especially important.
If all this trouble and slight insanity seems strange to you – don’t worry: the beekeepers the brothers encountered in Germany were also surprised to see a couple of Lithuanians at their mating station. They were surprised and delighted and even asked to be photographed together. For it’s a rare thing, much like meeting a grizzly bear in the Lithuanian woods.