Tree beekeeping, intangible cultural heritage that might as well be registered as an object of intellectual property

Tree beekeeping - collecting honey from wild bees in hollowed-out trees and logs - originated in Polesie in Belarus more than 1,000 years ago. Almost every resident of Polesie used to have tree hives, whereas a log hive was considered a very expensive wedding gift. In 1529, tree beeking was mentioned in the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: back then, wild bee honey and wax were the main exports. 

Wild hive honey is produced without human intervention, and is of high value: tree beekepers do not use artificial honeycomb, sugar syrup, or antibiotics to treat bees. This honey is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. Wild hive honey is polyfloral: it is made up of a variety of melliferous plants, some of which are listed in the Red Book. Wild hive honey can be stored for over a year and will not crystallize. 

Tree beekeeping has its secrets, too: tree hives are located in the lowlands, because bees prefer damp areas. They are placed in the valleys of numerous rivers (the Prypiat, the Dnieper, the Berezina, etc.). A log hive should be made of living trees, suspended at a height of 6-8 meters from the ground, the hollow in it is artificially aged.

Wild hive honey ripens for half a year and is harvested only once a year, in autumn. In a hive, a beekeeper may collect 20 to 30 litres of honey, but a tree beekeeper collects only 5 to 10 litres from a single wild hive. 

Since 2020, tree beekeeping in Belarus and Poland has been on the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. 

Wild hive honey from different locations in Belarus, due to its unique properties and methods and tools used, may well become an object of intellectual property, for example, a geographical indication. Registering a geographical indication, on the one hand, would once again raise the prestige of the unique product, and on the other hand, would protect it from possible fakes.