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TITLE Traditional beekeeping in Crete (17th-20th century)
AUTHOR Mavrofridis Georgios
LANGUAGE Αγγλικά / English
PUBLISH DATE 08.05.2019
KEYWORDS Traditional beekeeping, traditional beehives, ceramic beehives, top-bar hives, movable comb hives, wicker basket hives, bee enclosures, Cretan apiculture
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Regarding traditional beekeeping in Crete, based on the beekeeping methods and hives that have been recorded in recent centuries, we can distinguish two areas: Central-Western Crete, where vertical hives with movable combs were in use, and the eastern part of the island, where a horizontal hive with fixed combs was used.

Hives with movable combs (or top-bar hives) were constructed from various materials such as clay, woven wicker branches or more rarely from wooden boards. The clay ones were the most widely used and were usually constructed by travelling potters, who organized artisanal groups (guilds) and travelled around the island selling their wares.

The wicker top-bar hives, which usually did not have a base, were used in Western Crete, mostly for migratory beekeeping, while the rectangular wooden top-bar hives were used only rarely in certain areas such as Sphakia.

In Eastern Crete a horizontal, ceramic beehive open at both ends with a truncated-cone shape was in use, usually placed in rows. All the hives in Crete were covered with various materials for protection from the elements and were often placed inside bee enclosures.

The knowledge of traditional Cretan beekeepers regarding bees was limited. Despite this fact, however, the users of hives with movable combs practiced beekeeping in the most rational and effective way that has been recorded prior to the invention of the modern hive. In doing so, they executed a series of beekeeping tasks that were not possible for users of other types of hive. But even the beekeepers in the eastern part of the island, where a horizontal hive with fixed combs was used, applied certain unique methods, which are a testament to the advanced level of beekeeping knowledge they possessed.