The Bee Path was opened in 2015 by the city of Ljubljana (SI), a municipality aware of the importance of pollinators for the sustainability of cities. The path is designed in such a way that visitors can comprehend the importance of bees for our survival and our food safety, discover the necessity of honey in our daily diet, but also find out more about the city's beekeeping culture. Various stakeholders are involved in the initiative: educational, cultural and health institutions, businesses, NGOs, and of course, beekeepers. As a matter of fact, two-thirds of the total surface of Ljubljana are rural areas, in which 826 farms operate. The city puts great emphasis on self-sustainability. By doing so, Ljubljana tries to shorten food supply chains and ensure food sovereignty.
The City of Ljubljana is firmly linked to beekeeping. Around 300 beekeepers maintain more than 4 500 beehives housing as many as 180 million bees. In the Strategy for Rural Development of the City of Ljubljana (2014-2020), the quality of agriculture and forestry goods, with the aim of self-sufficiency, is one of the important goals which should be achieved by an increase of beekeeping in rural and urban areas. There is a support system for bees, and recommendations for all residents that want to keep bees in urban areas. Within the Bee Path program, the urban beehives and bee stands have been designed to meet the demands of urban space. The city has also planted melliferous plants and trees with an emphasis on indigenous plants. Thus, the biodiversity has been maintained, and due to the higher number of pollinators, the self-sufficiency of the city has risen. The city administration and Ljubljana Tourist Board have created a bee-keeping education trail for tourists that connects the main locations of Ljubljana’s bee-keepers. Numerous promotional actions and presentations create bridges of understanding between beekeepers and citizens.
The city encourages ecological good practices in beekeeping. Besides maintaining forest areas in the city, new boulevards and perennial plants on public green areas are planted. By co-financing bee associations in Ljubljana, the level of professional competence of beekeepers has risen.
The Bee Path is also a good practice in the cities' circular economy, where all partners use ecological and reusable materials. We are also upgrading the content with the story of wild pollinators, and building environment-friendly wooden beehives with green roofs.
The main focus of the Bee Path is children. All beekeeper associations have beekeeping clubs in schools or at home. Here, children learn about the importance of bees for our survival, develop a working attitude, socialise and acquire knowledge of the importance of honey for our health. Students also learn the basics of apitherapy in 10 beekeeping clubs, including over 200 students, currently operating within the city.
Special attention is also given to the elderly. We carry out various educational activities, field trips and lectures, where experts talk about the importance of honey and bee products for their health. All activities on the Bee Paths (promotion, Honey Day, events, training, networking, collaboration, etc.) are a small part of the efforts of the Beekeepers Association of Slovenia, to promote the 20th of May as World Bee Day by the UN.
Besides the city of Ljubljana, the Bee Path includes five beekeeper associations, the University of Ljubljana, the Faculty of Architecture, the Biotechnical Faculty, the National Farming Institute, the University Botanic Gardens of Ljubljana and the Biotechnical Educational Centre of Ljubljana. Very important are also private companies (BTC City, Park Hotel, Ljubljana Pharmacy, Ljubljana Castle, Medex), NGO’s (Beyond a Construction Site Community-Based Garden, Eneja Institute-social enterprise, Beekeeper Society Barje, Urban Beekeeper Society) and several cultural institutions. The most important however are the 13 beekeepers. Members of Bee Path connect with each other and build new, successful stories. Pedagogical programs, prepared by the city, connects four partners – the Botanical Garden, the BIC Ljubljana (a culinary educational centre), the Plenik house (museum) and the Biotechnical faculty. The programme presents four contents – honey plants, sensory properties of the honey, bee cultural heritage and the life cycle of the bees. The Bee Path concept is designed to cover any possible level, from the education of the young to the training of beekeepers, to connect cultural and natural heritage, to promote different public events (Honey day) where citizens get to know bees, their products and their importance for our existence. Beekeeping also became a tourist attraction in Ljubljana.
Honey and other bee products of local beekeepers are of supreme quality. In the competitions on a national level, honey from the city of Ljubljana frequently receives high scores. The honey's very high quality is obtained because the city greenery is not treated against pests. There are no pesticides, free acids, residues of heavy metals or genetically modified organisms. The Ljubljana honey is purer than honey from intensively cultivated agricultural areas. With the help of the city, five beekeepers developed their own businesses. Thanks to the bees, private companies also build their “green” story. For example, the Park Hotel rents beehives and uses the honey in the production of their honey pie, one of Ljubljana's guests' favourite sweets. In the summer months, 450,000 bees are buzzing on the roof of the “Cankarjev dom” building, the main cultural institution in the city centre. The Ljubljana pharmacy developed a self-aid kit to treat bee stings. Citizens visit urban beehives and bee stands. Events are held there, a social network was established, and visitors get acquainted with bees and beekeepers.
Other cities are also dealing with the growth of beekeeping in urban areas. The development of Bee Path uses bottom-up approach, adds adapted contents and follows development trends. Beekeeping is a link between farming and environment that can also be achieved by other cities. Due to the green identity of the city of Ljubljana, with 542 m2 of public green areas per inhabitant where more than 20% of the area has a nature protection status, beekeeping in the city is possible.
The Bee Path is a good example of cooperation between beekeepers, citizens, private companies and the city administration. New products are developed which promote beekeeping in the city. They combine natural and cultural heritage, cuisine, visits to the beehives in the green areas of the city as well as on the 13 terraces above the city. Ljubljana has a good tourist product and offers a typical souvenir gift: Ljubljana honey.