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Karakovan Dreaming – the Macaheli Way


Double the fun!

KA-RA-KO-VAN.

Since coming to Turkey, karakovan hives have fascinated me. However, out in Kars, there have only been a few conventional karakovan hives to pique my imagination. This small handful of the old-school-hollowed-out-trunk-style karakovan hive is mostly for show and tell. Because there is neither a tree culture, nor a large bear-attacking-hive culture (and most hives in Kars come complete with a growling Anatolian Shepard or Kangal), there isn’t much use for the traditional karakovan. However, in response to the high demand for karakovan honey comb, many local beekeepers have found alternative ways to adapt a modern box to produce karakovan honey (they instead use rounded frames or mini cubed frame inserts). But this solution aesthetically and culturally doesn’t fully compare to the looming dark Macaheli karakovan hive cylindrical orbs that I have come to love.* (more…)

I Throw My Hives up in the Air Sometimes…Saying Eyyyvah, Eyyyvah!


In the yayla above Yusufeli, karakovan hives are stacked like Rolos.

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. (more…)

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