Beekeeping in Puglia has very ancient traditions with widespread diffusion, as evidenced by the presence, especially in Salento, of the characteristic apiaries of now inactive tuff hives, but has experienced ups and downs over time depending on the human and socio-economic events of the region.
Puglia, since ancient times, has been one of the most important Italian regions for the production of honey and beehive products. Currently, in national statistics, it is positioned as the region with a greater nectar-producing potential than the others, but at the same time it is second to last for honey production, this is because in the last century, but above all in the last thirty years, farmers, they have shifted their economic interests to the cultivation and breeding of other agricultural products, first of all our extra virgin olive oil, the flagship of Italian and global production.
Another cause that contributed to the distancing of farmers from practicing and investing in beekeeping was certainly the parasitic Varroa mite. In recent decades, between the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, Apulian beekeeping (at that time still widely practiced) has almost disappeared, and this has not yet been completely overcome, contrary to what occurred in other Italian regions.
The large beekeeping companies based in central and northern Italy have, however, continued to exploit the Apulian territory with the transhumance of thousands of hives in our region for the production of the so-called monoflora honeys, causing a serious imbalance for the families of bees themselves and to the environment.
In a recent article Professor Marilia Tantillo, scientific director of the Food Safety Section of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Bari and bee expert, underlined precisely this, "Beekeeping is a sector of the Apulian economy that needs to be valorised and safeguard from the phenomenon of bee nomadism - especially by Abruzzo beekeepers - which every year is concentrated in the Ionian area of Crispiano, Statte, Massafra, because in our region there is a particularly valuable nectariferous flora", explains Professor Marilia Tantillo.
The main monoflora honeys on the market are produced in Puglia.
HISTORY OF BEEKEEPING IN SALENTO
The history of beekeeping in Salento has very ancient origins. As proof of what I write, we can refer to two Salento municipalities, the first is MELENDUGNO, the second MELISSANO
MELENDUGNO: According to legend, Malennio founded Syrbar, the first name of the coastal town Roca, which means City of the Sun, as well as Lyppiae (now Lecce) and Rudiae. Therefore the toponym of Melendugno comes from the root of its name, Malen-nio. He later transformed from Malandugno (bringer of misfortune) to Melendugno (bringer of sweetness). «The coat of arms depicts an Aleppo pine tree with a set of beehives in the center of the trunk from which three bees emerge fluttering in a circle. The Samnite shield is surmounted by the crown of the city."
MELISSANO: The toponym could derive from the fact that lemon balm ("μέλισσα" in Greek) was cultivated in the Melissano area, a spontaneous herbaceous plant much sought after by bees. This theory would also explain the presence of a bee on the country's coat of arms. Also in this case, the municipal coat of arms traces the origin of the name to honey and the activity of bees; honey is called "mele" in local dialect.
Despite man's Vandal fury in reproposing increasingly intensive agriculture to the detriment of the territory, traveling through the Salento countryside, it is easy to come across stone beehives.
That's right, the stone beehives, an exclusive feature unique in the world.
They have a modular structure being made up of different hives, in Salento dialect "ucche, ocche or vucche", in Italian bocche. They are parallelepipeds in local stone, 75 cm long and 35 cm wide, these have been made hollow inside along the entire length, leaving the edge, 5 cm thick. Three internal sides are perfectly smooth, as they are plastered, while one side, the one that was supposed to constitute the ceiling of the hive, is rough, to offer a safe grip for the honeycombs. The two sides that remained open were closed with two stone slabs, one of which was equipped with two holes allowing the bees to enter and exit. The operations of opening the hives, extracting the honey and cleaning them were done by removing the plate opposite to the one with the holes. The honeycombs were collected and placed in the pots and then taken home, the part of the honeycomb that contained the honey was separated from that which contained the broods which was called "puddhu", at which point the parts of the honeycomb containing the honey were squeezed and here is the sweetest liquid available.
In the territory of Otranto there was an ancient beekeeping system dating back to the early 1500s which used this ancient technology created by P. Morroi. In the Salve area, however, there is the largest of these hives, the VALENTINI aparo, an imposing structure, also equipped with a Colombian tower.
In the Salento area of Lecce until 1800, there were less fertile areas where the Mediterranean scrub prevailed with all the spontaneous flowers that populated it with abundant availability of pollen for the bees and it is in this period that modern beekeeping with honeycomb hives was established mobile. This modernization process was desired by men who made innovations in beekeeping, among these there were the names of A. Nicola Pasanisi from Galatone, L. Colaci from Melendugno and finally G. Balsamo and R. Bonerba from Lecce. The "ucche" were definitively branded irrationality by Alfonso Castriota Scardeberg, author in 1876 of a treatise for the rational breeding of bees and promoter of information campaigns aimed at convincing the landowners of Terra di Otranto to use hives and frames removable and the use of a practical hygienic honey extractor. That is
although many stone hives remained in operation until the middle of the last century and even beyond, the last ones were forcibly abandoned due to varroa, a newly introduced parasite which made breeding in this form impossible.
In 1870, many beekeepers in Salento complained about the crisis in honey production which was caused by the scarce presence of pollen, as more and more land was reclaimed from the Mediterranean scrub and was destined for the installation of olive groves and vineyards. The ancient Georgian writers agree
all in testifying both the abundance of this production and its great quality recognized and appreciated even in the most important and demanding markets of the time, an excellence attributed by the native gastronome of Oria Vicenzo Corrado as well as by other authors for the conspicuous presence of spontaneous flowers of the Mediterranean scrub.
Simone and Federica, husband and wife, are the owners of CASA VACANZE ANGELA ROSA, located in Carovigno in the province of Brindisi. For several years, we have been the point of reference for welcoming tourists from all over the world to our wonderful region, Puglia.
Since 2020, we have decided to start a new company that works in parallel to our tourist facility, AGRICOLA SIFE'.
AGRIGOLA SIFE' is a family-run company born mainly from a passion for the world of bees, respect for nature and the territory but above all to offer an exclusive service to the customers of our tourist facility.
It all starts with our choice to place some hives in the orchards to encourage pollination. From there begins the wonderful journey into the world of beekeeping, a world made of sacrifices and a lot of passion, but passion wins over tiredness. The love for bees has transformed this passion over time, making it a mission.
We have decided to adopt a sustainable agriculture model to safeguard the biodiversity of our territory. We produce exclusively BIODIVERSITY FRIEND BEEKEEPING organic PUGLIA HONEY
with permanent stations, as we place the well-being of the bees and the valorization of the Apulian territory and especially our Salento in first place.
On our honey, we immediately received two important certifications, the first organic and the second from the WORLD BIORVERSITY FRIEND BEEKEEPING ONLUS, one of the most important associations dedicated to safeguarding animal biodiversity.
In 2021, we started Honey production, making the first batch of over 300kg of honey. From the beginning, we looked for prestigious partners for the sale, offering it to various chefs in the area, receiving excellent organoleptic evaluations.
The honey was analyzed with melissopalynological analysis at the CREA API laboratory in Bologna.
In the specific examination, we precisely ascertained the pollen that make up our Puglia Honey, among the most relevant in the list: Lotus, Brassicaceae, Myrtle, Bramble, Viburnum and Red Clover and Pomegranate (which is
also found spontaneously throughout the area), all spontaneous blooms of the Salento Mediterranean Maquis. Pomegranate pollen represents a real rarity for honey. Together with it, of lesser importance but not negligible because it is important in the historical, cultural and economic context of Salento, within our honey there are traces of olive pollen, a rarity that is present exclusively in the Apulian territory and this contributes to making the honey unique honey from Salento.