The Country That Loves Bees

by Diana Pastor


On the other side of the Atlantic along the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea one encounters a country about the size of Guatemala but with a population eight times smaller.  Lithuania, a country not well-known in Latin America but which features, among other distinctions, being famous for offering high quality life to bees.

Significant records re: bees in Lithuania date the first beekeeping activities back to the 13th century.  The evidence is based on the issuance of the first documents regarding rights of beekeepers and protection for trees where honey is produced.   By the 15th century, generally considered to be governed by community norms, destruction of a hive or stealing honey was punished with fines and other penalties.  But this relationship between bees and humans has even older origins.  In Lithuania mythology there are two deities associated with bees:  Bubilas and Austja.  They are complementary one to the other.

In Lithuania most people value the benefits that bees contribute to their lives, so bees are considered worthy of much respect.  Lithuanians know that these little animals are the most important in the world because of their contribution to food supplies.  Bees are responsible for the pollination of diverse species of eatable plants equal to 35 % of food production world-wide.  And all of this pollination is done without transmitting any pathogen such as bacteria, fungi or viruses to those foodstuffs.

In Lithuania products derived from bees are widely utilized in food preparation and as therapeutic treatments for illnesses.  For these reasons and others, Lithuanians consider the bee to be a symbol of friendship.  In Lithuania the saying is, “A bee is like a friend and a friend is like bee.”  Perhaps due to this relationship the species of bees living in this country are considered to be particularly docile according to the Lithuanian Academy of Veterinarian Sciences.   

More than a few Lithuanians have their own hives.  Some even have expanded beyond their own backyards.  For example, recently the employees of a pharmaceutical discussed the possibility of activity that would strengthen relationship between workers and improve teamwork.  The result?  They created an apiary which had to be attended to by all.  It not only yielded honey, but also, reduced stress.  And once the bees had pollinated flowers found there, it beautified their work place as well.

In Lithuania people don’t have prejudices against bees nor do they consider them to be inferior because they are insects.  In fact, they consider them to be very intelligent.  This idea is supported by an article published in the journal Animal Sentience which discusses the complex system of neurons bees have allowing them to alert one another when they’ve found a food resource far from the hive (known as the dance of the bees).  With this nervous system they can also tell direction, distances from flowers, water and other hives.

Although Lithuania has a cultural tradition of cohabitation with bees, protection for them has had its challenges.  For example, the use of pesticides must be prohibited in agriculture because they are detrimental to the survival of bees.  And the number of  beekeepers has diminished among younger generations.  Nevertheless, the Lithuanians have learned about harmony, diligence and teamwork from bees and have introduced these values into their way of life.  Because this wisdom has been part of their culture for the last 100 years, it won’t be easily lost.  The relationship that Lithuania has with bees can be an example for other countries to replicate–to protect that which is so important for humanity.