Stories of the Zillertal tradition
A paradise of bees
Colonies of bees all over the world are fighting to survive, whereas the life of Maya the Bee and her friends in Zillertal is just a picnic! This is due to environmentally friendly farming methods and the beekeepers’ affection for their buzzing protégées. We visited two bee whisperers.
The humming and buzzing is so loud that you can hardly hear your own voice. Alexander Würtenberger (age 55) has just removed a frame from the beehive and is inspecting it closely. But his satisfied nod says more than a thousand words: “Everything is fine.” Together with his colleague Gerhard Oberdacher, head of the 252 beekeepers in Zillertal, he is checking whether the bee colonies are all alive and well. “It’s particularly important to take care of the individual hives and check them regularly”, he explains. “Then we can act quickly and help a colony which is in trouble.” Because every beekeeper in this region takes very good care of the little animals, the two men can now look back with satisfaction on a successful honey season.
It is late summer; most of the work has already been done by the passionate bee whisperers and their many thousands of bees. A few weeks ago, the last of the finequality honey was spun from the honeycomb frames and filled into jars. “It was a good year”, they say, happy about the rich honey harvest. Each of their colonies has produced about 20 kilos of honey. If you multiply this by the 2,780 colonies in Zillertal, you get an impressive amount of about 55,600 kilograms of this exceptionally precious elixir. The life of the busy bees in Zillertal is a real picnic. This in turn makes the natural honey they produce really exceptional!
Gerhard Oberdacher and Alexander Würtenberger
“Here in the valley, the farmers work as close to nature as possible”, the experts explain. “That’s why the sensitive bees remain healthy, so that their honey is free of any undesirable additives.” In Zillertal, there is only pure nature in the honey jar. And a variety which is well worth tasting: for example, the rare dandelion honey, the forest and blossom honey of course – and, above all, the unique alpine rose honey.
“This is a real rarity”. Würtenberger und Oberdacher proudly explain why. The alpine rose is a flower which only flourishes in the high mountains. When this beautiful flower blooms, the beekeepers in Zillertal grab their beehives and move them with great effort to higher altitudes. Their bees can then enjoy the wonderful nectar from these rare blooms. And in autumn, it can be enjoyed by anyone who cares to taste the delicious alpine rose honey from Zillertal.
The future of the bees lies in the hands of children. But a full-blooded beekeeper is not only interested in his honey harvest. “Without the bees, we wouldn’t be able to harvest as much fruit”, the two experts remind us. These unassuming animals play a vital role as pollinators. “This means that we have to take special care of our bees“, says Würtenberger. For this reason, the Zillertal beekeepers have conceived the project “Blühende Gemeinde” (Blooming community). The beekeepers and nature park rangers give explanatory talks in schools – and give the children a large number of organic crocus bulbs. The idea is that they plant these at home, providing the bees with an important source of nourishment in spring. This project has meanwhile been acclaimed and copied all over Austria. It’s therefore only logical that the people of Zillertal are as proud of this project as they are of the high-quality honey produced by their healthy bees.
Images: Simon Hausberger/Alexander Würtemberger and text: Johannes Stühlinger
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