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Supported by the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project, the union of Herzegovinian beekeepers Kadulja trains its members in the production of bee venom for further use in the pharmaceutical industry.

“The beekeepers from Hercegovina have been producing honey for decades yet the production of bee venom is something new in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a very demanding process, but the product price is very high, 40,000 BAM a kilo, and that makes it worthwhile. Furthermore, it does not affect the production of honey,” says Dobro Zovko, President of the Kadulja (sage) Beekeeper Union headquartered in Ljubuški.

According to Dobro, bee venom has a wide application in the pharmaceutical industry. It is used in the production of face creams, and creams that are used to treat sports injuries and illnesses such as rheumatism and bronchial asthma.

To diversify production and make beekeeping more profitable, with the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project, Kadulja is now running a training course on the bee venom production for up to 160 beekeepers from Posušje, Mostar, Čapljina, and Trebinje.

Beekeeping tradition and a new product

"Beekeeping has a long tradition in Hercegovina. Our union brings together twelve municipal beekeeping associations. The majority of their members, who are being trained, are third-generation beekeepers," says Dobro. The union brings together some 750 to 800 beekeepers, many of whom are trying to make the beekeeping their only profession.

Herzegovinian honey is of excellent quality. The members of the union produce some 300 tons of honey annually, and they usually manage to sell it all. Bee venom should be another product that will also have its market.

“One needs to produce rather large quantities of bee venom to be able to offer it in the market. The minimum quantity is two to three kilograms, and it takes some 100 to 120 hives to produce one kilo of bee venom a year,” explains Dobro. “With the size of the union, and many of our members gaining the knowledge on how to extract it and properly store it, they just might become a reliable supplier to the pharmaceutical industry.”

Training courses and access to the market

The extraction of the bee venom requires a very special device that is placed inside the beehive. The trainer, Tvrtko Matijević, from Daruvar in Croatia, is also the inventor of one type of this device. His device has proven to generate high-quality bee venom, and that was confirmed by the Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute of Public Health in Zagreb.

"We planned to have four training sessions with some forty participants per session. But due to the pandemic, the first two sessions were held in late June and we had 41 participants altogether. The new sessions are now on hold. People are concerned about getting infected and are not willing to attend bigger gatherings. We will have to wait for a more opportune time to continue with the training,” says Dobro.

As Dobro and members of the union do not have experience working with the pharmaceutical industry, in the beginning they are planning to cooperate with Tvrtko and using his contacts. “We will first work on producing sufficient quantities of the high-quality bee venom, and then we will try to develop our contact with the pharmaceutical industry here in BiH and abroad. Until then, we will continue learning from Tvrtko and training more beekeepers,” concludes Dobro.