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General Facts On Turkısh Apıculture

Anatolia; the cradle of civilization is both the witness and supporter of the human being in reaching today’s civilization. Its environmental conditions, climate, natural resources, flora and location have played important roles in establishing bridges between the civilizations. Suitable conditions enable many species to exist in Anatolia for thousand years; excavations prove the developments experienced in construction, agriculture and stockbreeding in Anatolia. Findings in those excavations prove that apiculture activities exist in Anatolia since ancient times. Hittite tablets from BC 1300 contain some information about apiculture and coins found in Ephesus antique city excavations carry some apiculture designs on them.      


Turkey is one of the exceptional countries with quite wide biological diversity enabling apiculture activities to exist widely and regularly. Statistically; there are 10.482 different plants of 8.792 species in Turkey. The figures in Greece are around 8000, in Iran around 7000 and in Bulgaria around 3300. The diversified amount of species brings along the biological productiveness and constitute fertile conditions on apiculture activities in Anatolia. In addition to that there are enough nectar sources in Anatolia even in winter times. Heather (Erica ssp.), Japanese medlar (Eriobatrya japonica L.), Almond (Prunus amygdalus L.) and Citrus (Citrus ssp.) are in demand on the Mediterranean coastline from end of fall till spring, Clover (Trifolium ssp.), Thyme (Thymus ssp.), Astragalus (Astragalus ssp.) and Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) etc. are in demand on the mountains and upland in spring; Sunflower (Helianthaus annuus L.) in Thrace region; Cotton (Gossypium ssp.) in South, Southeast and West of Anatolia are in demand as major nectar and polen sources.


Besides; plenty of honeydew on the pine trees (Pinus ssp.)is an important source of nectar in the Southwest region. There are also wild trees such as Acacia (Acacia ssp.), Linden (Tilia ssp.), Rhododendron (Rhodendron ssp.), Chestnut (Castanea sativa) and thousands of plant species countrywide offering a great deal of selections to the beekeepers.     
Beekeeping activities take place in every city of our country with wide range of floral sources in four different seasons. Many bee races and ecotypes adapting themselves to the climate conditions of our country nourish themselves from rich floral sources throughout the year. Each region having its own environmental conditions and flowering periods enable the beekeepers who aim to produce higher amounts of honey to perform migratory beekeeping. The enterprises holding 70-80% of the bee colonies in Turkey produce honey by migrating their colonies all around the country and 90% of the total honey production is provided by such enterprises.   
Mainly Mediterranean and coastal line of the Aegean regions having warm weather conditions are preferred for reasons of spending the winter, obtaining rich nectar and pollen sources and benefiting from early spring.  
The major migration reasons and the major floral sources benefited during this migration apicultural activities can be listed as follows:

Between 1991-2009 YearsBeekeeping in Turkey
YearsNumber of VillasgesNew BarrelOld BarrelHoney(tonne)Wax(tonne)
1991 21.540 3.161.583 266.859 54.655 2.383
1995 21.987 3.701.444 214.594 68.620 3.735
2000 22.571 4.067.514 199.609 61.091 4.527
2005 22.550 4.432.954 157.743 82.336 4.178
2009 21.469 5.210.481 128.743 82.003 4.385


A)    Some beekeepers living in the regions where winters are quite cold move to
Southern Anatolia with their colonies of bees to introduce them winter sources in warmer conditions. Thus winter losses are decreased and colonies start spring in stronger conditions as they have had bood production during winter period.
B) Colonies benefit from fruit trees, natural meadows and broad range of citrus flows in early spring in the southern region. Colonies not migrating to citrus areas but staying in Eastern and Middle Anatolia benefit from flowers on the natural meadows and fields. There is an important difference between the colonies migrating to the Southern Anatolia and the colonies staying in the other regions in respect of the productivity because by the harvest time in the Southern regions, colonies in the higher plateaus just start brood rearing.    
C) The primary sources of the bees are bushes on the uplands and spring flowers on the higher plateaus by the end of spring and start of summer.
D) The sources are mainly crop plants during summer months. The major ones can be listed as sunflower, cotton, clover and sesame.
E) The primary nectar sources are the honeydew secrections on the pine tree grounds by the end of summer and fall. These sources are common mostly in Mugla region and surroundings, by the coastline such as Marmaris, Fethiye, Datça and Dilek peninsula near Aydin. These locations are main haunts for the producers living in those areas.   
Approximately one third of the countrywide honey production is procured in this region.
Bee Breeding and Ecotypes in Turkey and range of distribution
Turkey has been homeland for Anatolian (Apis mellifera anatolica), Caucasian (Apis mellifera caucasica), Carniolan  (Apis mellifera carnica), Syrian (Apis mellifera syriaca) and Iranian (Apis mellifera meda) bee races for million years.
Those races are known as Caucasian on the Northeast and Black Sea, domestic Carniolan in the Thrace region, Iranian in the Southeast, Syrian in the South and Southeast, Anatolian in Central Anatolia, Marmara and rest of the country.
20% of the 25 world bee races exist in Turkey. Although the breed race in Northeast is named Caucasian; there have been important morphological differences found in the samples collected in this region.  
Anatolian bees show great morphological and physiological differences due to different conditions of the country. The differences can be observed even in the broader or narrower areas where same environmental and apicultural conditions exist. Sometimes ecotypes can display different behaviors due to different conditions in those areas. For example; Anatolian Southwest type of bees callae Mugla ecotype adapt pine performs effective honey collection from the end of summer until the winter period. Mugla ecotype is amongst the ecotypes which is the most common and adapting itself to different conditions. Its rapid growth due to high offspring capacity and high pine honey production distinct this ecotype from the others. In the researches done in many of the other regions of the country; it has proven superiority over many other  races. However; swarming tendency and aggressiveness of Mugla ecotype have been found higher than the other races and ecotypes. It is possible to observe two subtypes of this ecotype having different behavior. While dark-colored and quite calm type lays the honeycombs horizontal, the pettish type lays them vertical. Once modern beehives have been introduced, those two types have merged together and became inseparable. It may be possible to separate those lines with the appropriate selection and breeding techniques by using current broad variation. The other important ecotype is in Marmara especially in Thrace. This ecotype has been formed most possibly under the effect of Anatolian and East European bees. Recent studies have shown that around 86% of this ecotype has common genetic characteristics with Carniolan honey honeybee which gives cause for it being called as domestic Carniolan bee. This genotype has the quality of being a pure material for apiarists breeding Carniolan type of bees suitable to the similar conditions. Some of the characteristics of this type is its calmless, early and rapid colony growth, adaptation to variable weather conditions and wintering ability with low population.     
            The general characteristics of Anatolian bees which constitute the base of the ecotypes existing in our country can be expressed that they are resistant to diseases, inadequacy of the sources and drought, cold winters and dry hot summers in Anatolia. Those characteristics can be shown as reasons for Anatolian bees to be taken for breeding purposes to the United Kingdom and United States of America.