The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported Ekomed-MK to start producing a new type of bee feed with herbal remedies against parasites. This feed will help keep bees healthy and can reduce losses in honey production by up to 50 percent.
Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, public discourse mainly revolved around staying safe and healthy and about boosting immunity. Honey and other bee products gained in popularity as immunity boosters but little to no attention was paid to the health and immunity of bees.
However, for Ekomed-MK from Crkvina, Šamac, Northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, that is the primary mission. One of their core activities is the production of feed with natural ingredients that protects bees from parasites and boosts their immunity. They also produce wax foundations, which are the building blocks of any hive.
The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported Ekomed-MK in their mission to cater to the health of bees. With the support of the project, Ekomed-MK will start producing a bee feed with natural remedies against Varroa parasites that can kill entire colonies over the winter and have a serious economic impact on beekeepers.
From beekeepers to bee protectors
Maslić family, the company owners, established Ekomed-MK in 2008 after being beekeepers for 40 years.
They originally started producing bee feed and fax foundations for their own needs and several other beekeepers from the Šamac area. Pero Starčević, who is in charge of business development at Ekomed-MK, explains that the family apiary consisted of 400 hives and that the production of honey used to be their occupation.
“As the demand for wax foundations and bee feed grew, they had less time for beekeeping, so their focus shifted. The Ekomed-MK apiary now has 50 hives but the company employs 16 full-time and eight seasonal workers who produce 550 tons of different types of bee feed and 150 tons of wax foundations each year,” he adds.
According to Pero, Ekomed-MK has 71 distributors that are making bee feed and wax foundations available to beekeepers throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also export to Serbia, North Macedonia, and Croatia, catering to the well-being of bees all over the region.
Finding a new formula and staring the production
From its establishment to date, Ekomed-MK produced bee feed with natural herbal remedies against the Nosema Apis parasite, which causes diarrhea among bees and can be deadly. However, they spent the last two years developing a new type of bee feed which includes herbal remedies also against the Varroa parasite, which feeds on the bee fat tissue and is possibly the deadliest parasite of all.
"We tested different herbal mixes on all our 50 hives. It took us two years to find the right combination, but we found it, and now it's time for the mass production," Pero says.
This is where the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project came in handy. Ekomed-MK did not lack production capacities though they needed a packaging machine for the new product. They used a FARMA II grant to purchase the machine and will now start packaging an additional 40 tons of bee feed that will protect bees also from the Varroa.
Preventing losses and upping gains
According to Pero, if not treated, Varroa and Nosema can wipe out entire colonies and, on average, kill up to 50 percent of bees in a hive over the winter. This is a significant loss for beekeepers as they stand to lose 50 percent of honey and other bee products in the next season or need to buy new bee societies.
Though bees may suffer the most over the winter, he says that, “the use of herbal remedies is recommended throughout the year especially from early spring to late autumn, when the use of chemical remedies is forbidden as they spoil honey.”
Pero adds that Ekomed-MK's feed constantly builds the immunity of bees and is keeping them fed when the weather is bad when there is no nectar in flowers, and of course during the winter. He further notes that bees use it only to replenish the energy they use.
"So yes, our bee feed is keeping bees both fed and healthy. We are now printing promotional and educational materials about the new product, and have developed a webpage with that information. This is all a good start for this winter and come spring we are sure that many beekeepers will opt to start using this bee feed as well,” concludes Pero. They also hope to start producing and exporting more of this new product in the years to come.