For three years, the Ukrainian beekeepers have been actively testing chlorella algae, which is used as feed for bees. This year, with support from the Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP), Volodymyr has dared to make a fantastic experiment at his apiary – to combine chlorella with honey.
Ukraine is a big global honey producer and exporter. In 2019, almost 56,000 tons of honey totaling more than 100 million USD was exported around the world. As demand continues to increase, importing countries are setting strict requirements for honey quality, purity, and product traceability. These requirements are necessary, but they can create stress and confusion for farmers as they try to align with shifting regulations, and competitive economic ecosystems.
But there is an added challenge.
Ukrainian farmers are also adjusting to these increased restriction requirements while also responding to the ongoing impacts of climate change. From sudden spring frosts to the increased use of pesticides, loss of a hive or an entire yard of bees, known as an apiary, is becoming common place.
With these strict requirements and challenges, Ukrainian beekeepers are implementing strategies to ensure their honey is of the highest quality.
One such strategy they are implementing is ensuring that apiaries are free of harmful chemicals or antibiotics which can find its way into honey and contaminating it. This is a challenging endeavor however, because some agricultural producers are using harmful pesticides in the fields carelessly without warning local beekeepers. As a result, insecticides are killing thousands of bee colonies. For beekeepers, this means honey that is unsuitable for export and sale on the domestic market.
One possible solution to mitigate those challenges is to increase the bee colonies natural resistance to toxic agents and sudden temperature changes. Beekeepers within the Odesa region are actively testing out a biologically active additive called “chlorella suspension”.
Chlorella is produced by a Ukrainian biological startup called "Live Chlorella”. They are a partner of the UHBDP eVoucher discount program. According to its founder Samvel Mkrtchyan, over the past 3 years of working with UHBDP, they have significantly developed their client base and continue to improve production.
"The chlorella value is that it restores tissue cells and replenishes the vitamins and microelements deficiency in the body of bees, restores metabolic disorder, it is especially important during the spring period after hibernation of bee colonies. Moreover, in the absence or lack of pollen due to weather conditions, bees are developed slowly, with delays. And chlorella serves as an effective pollen substitute," – Svitlana Petrenko, the Head of the department of horticulture, viticulture, biology and chemistry, the Associate Professor of the Odesa State Agrarian University.
Based on results of a study carried out by the laboratory of the Institute of Beekeeping, adding chlorella as a feed prolongs the bees’ lifetime by 14 to 20%. It was also found that queen bees increase their reproductive capacity by up to 20%, and the colony increases their strength. Chlorella also increases the resistance to diseases and helps to remove toxic substances from the bee's body and is a valuable food rich in microelements.
Volodymyr heads a farm and apiary in Ukriane; he has been an early adopter of using chlorella to fortify his beehives.
Volodymyr’s use of chlorella began in the spring of 2020 – which was a surprisingly cold year. To help his bees survived the cold, he used chlorella-based feed which resulted in more active and healthier hives compared to the year before.
Fortified honeybee feed is not the only thing he is implementing. Volodymyr and his wife Svitlana are constantly working on new recipes for natural honey-based products: cream-honey with various phyto-additives, honey desserts, compositions, and cocktails.
Volodymyr and his family also received a grant through UHBDP to purchase dryers for fruits and berries, which they now add to their honey compositions.
Collaboration with Samvel in chlorella experiments has inspired the couple to create a unique and useful product – green honey. This is based on cream-honey from different flowers and chlorella suspension. Soon, these products will appear on the shelves of retail chains and in other online stores.
We hope that this story of mutually beneficial cooperation between the beekeepers’ family, the chlorella producer and the project will serve as a good example for other horticulture sector participants. And, the beekeeping industry will become more environmentally friendly, and honey will increase its additional value and health benefits.
-- Dmytro Kravtsov, UHBDP Environmental Specialist