In Poland, tree-beekeeping is a one-thousand-year-old practice based on traditional ecological knowledge. Recent revival of this ‘living heritage’ has been made possible by the few tree-beekeepers left; these apiarists are now gaining prominence in individual and national efforts to promote environmental awareness and education on policies that define conservation goals, priorities, and measures for sustainable livelihoods. The main purpose of the research is to promote concrete measures to revitalize and safeguard tree-beekeeping (boreal apiary) and cultural beekeeping in Eastern Europe, primarily in Poland. In eastern Europe, cultural beekeepers have been instrumental in ensuring the survivability of the honeybees (Apis mellifera mellifera), indigenous to the region. In 2020, UNESCO placed Poland’s tree-beekeeping practice on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity so that the knowledge and practices associated with tree-beekeeping and cultural apiary are transmitted intergenerationally.
Examining cultural apiary from biological and socio-cultural perspectives, this research works in partnership with beekeepers and cultural knowledge-holders (1) to examine the revitalization of cultural apiary as an ecological practice used to sustain honey bee populations (2) to ensure best practices for intergenerational cultural heritage transmission of land-based practices and sustainable livelihoods; and (3) to determine most efficient measures that beekeeping cultural knowledge can be utilized for policy change. Pollinators like honeybees are subject to significant anthropogenic pressures and the interdisciplinary element of the research project will greatly increase our knowledge of bees in forests and the impact of environmental change on pollinator survivability. Integration between science-policy sectors can be important drivers of environmental change, especially in the realms of institutional influence. Researching how the ecological values of beekeepers are articulated, negotiated, and expressed through this land-based practice permits us to explore cultural performativity that implicitly or explicitly leverages points towards embarking in environmentally sustainable and socially fair future pathways.