‘Honeyland’: An Intimate Relationship Between a Beekeeper and Her Bees

‘Honeyland’ is a documentary shot over three years that follows the life of Hatidze, a beekeeper from Macedonia. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)
‘Honeyland’ is a documentary shot over three years that follows the life of Hatidze, a beekeeper from Macedonia. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Honeyland, directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, is a documentary that follows the life of Hatidze, a beekeeper from Macedonia in Europe. Shot over three years, the film explores the meaning of life and how human beings are connected to the ecosystem as well as to the other people around them.

Macedonian beekeeper

Over 50 years of age, Hatidze has lived her life taking care of her bees and a few animals at her home while looking after her paralyzed mother. Living in a remote corner of the country, she makes a trip to the capital Skopje every now and then to sell her honey. Hatidze has been living a quiet life, content with whatever little she possesses.

However, her peaceful life soon gets disrupted. A new family — consisting of a father, mother, seven kids, vehicles, and cattle  — has just moved in.

Hatidze’s subsistence ends up in trouble when the father of the new family, Hussein, sees a business opportunity in her beekeeping activity. He unloads several frames and boxes used for commercial beekeeping. Hatidze warns Hussein to leave about 50 percent of the honey for his bees or they will end up attacking her bees.

Blinded by money, Hussein chooses to ignore her advice and takes out the majority of the honey from his beehives, only to have things turn out exactly the way she predicted. This causes conflict between Hatidze and her neighbors, which unfolds in a highly impactful fashion. Throughout the entire documentary, Hatidze’s love and concern for the bees and the environment stands out.

(Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Hussein ignores her advice and takes out the majority of the honey from his beehives. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

“Hatidze’s methods are intimate and humane; she’s endowed with a loving touch that, seemingly, the bees recognize — she works with them barehanded and appears never to be stung. She speaks to them and sings to them, but, above all, she nurtures and nourishes them, telling them, half for you, half for me’ — she doesn’t deplete their supply of honey to maximize her short-term income but treats the hives that she sustains on another rock wall, alongside her home, with familial care,” according to The New Yorker.

In contrast, Hussein treats bees as his property from which he must extract honey so that he can make some cash. This doesn’t mean that Hussein is some evil guy. Not at all. He is just a father struggling to feed eight mouths. However, his desperation blinds him to the fact that one must always maintain a balance in nature or face its backlash.

Some of his children take an interest in Hatidze’s methods, which she teaches them, essentially “passing the flame” from the old generation to the young. The fact that Hussein’s kids might grow up with a worldview that takes into account the protection of nature really stands out. The documentary is wrenching, funny, and thoughtful, which makes it a definite must-watch when you get some time.

Beekeeping facts

There are basically two ways you can start a bee colony. The first is the hard way — catch a wild bee swarm. This is clearly something most amateurs or hobbyists avoid. The easiest way is to buy an established colony, which is referred to as the Nucleus Colony or the “nuc.” “A nuc is usually made up of Langstroth-fitting frames already populated with around 40,000-80,000 established bees, including a queen. Nucs are more expensive than packages because they contain working frames,” according to Guide Outdoors.

(Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Catching a wild bee swarm is the hardest way to start a new colony. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Bees can only make honey to feed themselves when there is enough pollen around. The rest of the time, owners will have to give them food, which usually includes sugar water. A honeybee colony maintains a strict class system, with the queen right at the top. Her only job is to keep laying eggs, which she does at the rate of up to 2,000 per day. The worker bees are females whose job is to collect nectar and maintain the hive. Drones consist of the male bees whose sole task is to mate with the queen, after which their abdomen explodes and they die.

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