The Bee Path promotes public awareness of how significant bees are to food sovereignty, biodiversity and the long term sustainability of the city.
Ljubljana’s Bee Path opened in 2015. The path is designed in such a way that visitors can learn the important role bees play in the city’s environment, the value of honey in our daily diet, and find out more about the city's long established beekeeping culture. The city encourages ecological good practices in beekeeping. Besides maintaining forest areas in the city, melliferous trees and perennial plants on public green areas are planted and by co-financing bee associations, the level of professional competence of beekeepers has risen.
Numerous promotional activities and events have been implemented by the stakeholders involved including educational, cultural and health institutions, businesses, NGOs, and of course, beekeepers.
This project was awarded the 'URBACT Good Practice Label' in 2017. Learn more about the award.
Background and objectives
The Slovenian Carniolan honey bee has long been popular with beekeepers around the world due to its non-aggressive behaviour. These bees are particularly adept at adjusting worker population to nectar availability. They are resistant to some disease and parasites and live up to 12% longer than other breeds. Apart from the honey it gathers it keeps various useful plant species pollinated and helps preserve biodiversity.
In the Strategy for Rural Development of the City of Ljubljana (2014-2020), the quality of agriculture and forestry goods, with the aim of self-sufficiency, is outlined as one of the key goals which should be achieved by an increase of beekeeping in rural and urban areas.
Two-thirds of the total surface of Ljubljana are rural areas, in which 826 farms operate and approximately 300 beekeepers maintain more than 4,500 beehives, housing as many as 180 million bees. The city puts great emphasis on self-sustainability and by doing so, Ljubljana tries to shorten food supply chains to ensure food sovereignty for citizens and help preserve biodiversity.
The objectives of The Bee Path are:
- expansion and development of beekeeping in the wider area of the city of Ljubljana (education of beekeepers, providing support in developing activities, co-financing of the operation of beekeeping societies),
- development of beekeeping in the urban centre (safety, awareness-raising and education of citizens about beekeeping rules in urban space),
- environmental and cultural tourism opportunities related to beekeeping in the city,
- development of new urban apiaries and bee yards,
- development of pedagogical programmes.
Initiatives and activities established to support the Bee Path
- the set-up of the city apiary in the University Botanic Gardens Ljubljana,
- planting honey plants in the city,
- honey garden at Grba within the public orchard,
- little pyramid honey garden in Europe Park.
- guided tourist tours of the Bee Path (a three-hour long programme, a whole-day visit and path discovery) and pedagogical programmes for all three triads of the nine-year primary school programme,
- An exhibition titled Urban Beekeeping from Plečnik to Present Times,
- the discussion titled Challenges and opportunities of urban beekeeping in the City of Ljubljana and wider area,
- establishment of the On-call Service for Swarm Collection in the City in which beekeepers, the Ljubljana Fire Brigade and rescue services (112) have joined forces.
The Bee Path is also a good practice in the cities' circular economy, where all partners use ecological and reusable materials, for example, building environment-friendly wooden beehives with green roofs.
The main focus of the Bee Path is children. All beekeeper associations have beekeeping clubs in schools or at home. Here, children learn about the importance of bees for our survival, develop a working attitude, socialise and acquire knowledge of the importance of honey for our health. Students also learn the basics of apitherapy in 10 beekeeping clubs, including over 200 students, currently operating within the city.
Special attention is also given to the elderly. Various educational activities, field trips and lectures, where experts talk about the importance of honey and bee products for their health.
Members of Bee Path connect with each other and build new, successful stories. Pedagogical programs, prepared by the city, connects four partners – the Botanical Garden, the BIC Ljubljana (a culinary educational centre), the Plenik house (museum) and the Biotechnical faculty.
Financing and resources
The lead agency for the project is the city of Ljubljana in partnership with five beekeeper associations, the University of Ljubljana - the Faculty of Architecture and the Biotechnical Faculty, the National Farming Institute, the University Botanic Gardens of Ljubljana and the Biotechnical Educational Centre of Ljubljana. Support from private companies (BTC City, Park Hotel, Ljubljana Pharmacy, Ljubljana Castle, Medex), NGO’s (Beyond a Construction Site Community-Based Garden, Eneja Institute-social enterprise, Beekeeper Society Barje, Urban Beekeeper Society) and several cultural institutions. The most important however are the 13 beekeepers. All partners have invested hundreds of hours of their time in planning and attending promotional events, meetings, development activities and providing other resources as needed.
Since 2015, the city of Ljubljana has provided 14.000,00 EUR for the Bee Path.
Results and impacts
- In December 2017, the UN General Assembly endorsed Slovenia’s initiative to declare 20 May World Bee Day.
- The spring campaign “Let’s help the city bee” encourages citizens to plant window box and balcony flowers so they can contribute to the preservation of the native honey bee as well as its complex and extremely important role in nature.
- The development of apitourism – tourism focused on and for people who love bees.
- Honey and other bee products of local beekeepers are of high quality. In the competitions at a national level, honey from the city of Ljubljana frequently receives high scores. The honey's quality is obtained as the city greenery is not treated against pests, therefore there are no pesticides, free acids, residues of heavy metals or genetically modified organisms.
- With the support of the city, five beekeepers developed their own businesses.
Private businesses also build their “green” story. For example:
- the Park Hotel rents beehives and uses the honey in the production of their honey pie, one of Ljubljana's guests' favourite sweets.
- In the summer months, 450,000 bees are buzzing on the roof of the “Cankarjev dom” building, the main cultural institution in the city centre.
- The Ljubljana pharmacy developed a self-aid kit to treat bee stings.
- Citizens visit urban beehives and bee stands. Events are held there, a social network was established, and visitors get acquainted with bees and beekeepers.
Barriers and challenges
There are no barriers or challenges – it appears everyone in Ljubljana loves bees!
Lessons learned and transferability
The Bee Path is a good example of cooperation between beekeepers, citizens, private companies and the city administration. New products are developed which promote beekeeping in the city. They combine natural and cultural heritage, cuisine, visits to the beehives in the green areas of the city as well as on the 13 terraces above the city.
URBACT case study: Bee path, Building together the story of bees in urban areas: http://urbact.eu/bee-path
Ljubljana: the Bee Path: https://www.ljubljana.si/en/ljubljana-for-you/environmental-protection/the-bee-path/
Ljubljana: Let’s help the bee – plant flowers in the city: https://www.ljubljana.si/en/news/lets-help-the-bee-plant-flowers-in-the-city/