Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to hive placement in Turkey’s northeast. Built into an attic, balanced upon a rooftop, suspended atop colorful tracks, perched on a tree top, steady above a pile of rocks…hives display local beekeeper’s skills, culture, history, and even a little imagination.
In some cases, the hives are karakovan (traditional bee hives) formed from hollowed Ilhamur tree trunks. Karakovan hives were first placed high up into the trees long before conventional Langstroth hives arrived in the region, and relatives still climb to the hives several times a year for harvest and very light maintenance. The general rule of karakovan is the less you touch them, the better. Karakovan hives origins can be traced to the Caucuses, and they have been used in the northeast as long as almost anyone can remember. A select few ancient beekeepers tell me of a time before karakovan where the bees were kept in rocks. The karakovan hives were introduced as an upgrade in order to protect the bees and hives from bears, and improve harvesting process. When you see how high beekeepers place their hives into the trees, you have to wonder if they also have other motives: like scaring the crap out of their fear-loving Turkish moms.
But how do beekeepers get their hives up on top of the tallest trees in Turkey in the first place?
Step 1: find a buddy. This person is mostly there to witness when you fall.
Step 2: create a strong rope from the fibers of weeds. Sounds strong right?
Step 3: throw said rope up the tree, fasten 50 kilo karakovan loaded with bees to your back and begin to climb. Repeat to get as high as possible, thus scaring all friends, families, relatives, bears, and small children. But the dudes will think you are cool, don’t worry.
Step 4: flex. Climbing these trees takes such a degree of strength, prowess, and skill, that if people still have any doubts, you should shatter their questioning glares with one glimpse of your triceps.
Step 5: Secure the karakovan to tree branches and cover with metal sheets to protect from rain, humidity, and nature’s elements.
And if you make it down without saying “eyvah eyvah” (ut oh)…
Step 6: SUCCESS!
For black sea beekeepers that don’t have a super tall 600 year-old tree to call their own, they build their hives into their houses and attics. Apparently they believe no bear would come so close to their houses (clearly the Turkish bears have also become fear-loving, quite a contrast to our Colorado dumpster diving bears). However still some beekeepers simply use barbed wire or electric tape, protection tactics that are closer to those of my Colorado home.
For more on karakovan hives, check back in for posts from the Macahel coming later this week.