Home » Mishka Honeys: made by lovely people, not in giant factories

Mishka Honeys: made by lovely people, not in giant factories

Single-source artisan honeys are sought after the world over for their unique flavours and health-giving properties. And then there’s that other wonderful thing about them. Behind every jar of real honey are real people – lovely, dedicated people who work so hard to keep their bees happy and healthy all year round. As you might imagine, keeping bees well in the famously hard Siberian winter is a huge challenge.

Among the beekeepers who provide their precious product for Mishka Honeys are Vasily Chetvergov and his son Michail. The Chetvergovs’ home is the remote village of Solton in the Altai region, with the nearest town over a hundred kilometres away. I’m writing this in mid-February, and the temperature where Vasily and Michail are working today is — 18oC, although strong winds makes it feel even colder!

Solton Village, Altai –18oC

 

Many farmers in villages like Solton tend to rely on a single economy, in this case beekeeping. No wonder the Chetvergovs are so passionate about protecting their bees – because those hives and the precious pure honeys they make are quite literally the family’s livelihood.

without hives there is no stable income for the family 

 

A summer memory

 

Under that thick blanket of snow it’s hard to remember just how warm and vibrant the countryside was last summer. A happy place for the bees from the two Chetvergov apiaries to buzz and forage freely.

Each apiary comprises around eighty hives. One is just a kilometre or so from the village, in a picturesque hollow surrounded by forest glades thick with fragrant Angelica blossom, the source of Mishka’s delicate Angelica honey.

The other Chetvergov apiary is around eight kilometres away, hidden in thick, mostly pine forest. A bee paradise, the forest seldom sees humans apart from beekeepers. In summer the road through is nothing more than a rough track, driveable with great care only by 4x4 or an off-road motorcycle. In heavy rain, the track becomes impassable. But this remoteness brings delicious rewards with its uniquely distinctive forest and meadow flower honeys rich with the exotic aromas and flavours of the wilderness.

The race to harvest Mishka honey before the winter snows arrive

At the end of last summer, Vasily and Michail worked incredibly hard to harvest their honey (leaving just enough for the bees to live on over winter). Like every year, this was a race against time before the Siberian winter started to close in again at the beginning of October.

But the hard work didn’t end with collecting the honey. It was then time to prepare the bees for their winter break. These Central Russian bees are a big, robust species that have been in Altai since their introduction in the mid-1700s – but even they need a bit of extra shelter in conditions that can drop as low as –40oC.

Moving hives in their winter huts

For this reason, Vasily and Michail carefully move all eighty-plus hives from their summer positions and place them carefully inside storage huts where they’ll stay until spring. 

Hive winter maintenance and making new hives

End of year is also the time when the Chetvergovs carry out maintenance on the hives – cleaning, repairing and, where necessary, replacing old hives with complete new ones. Yet once the bees are settled for winter, the beekeepers’ work still doesn’t end. 

Popping out to check the hives

Over winter, an important job for Vasily and Michail is to care for their bees’ welfare. Like humans, bees may occasionally experience ailments. The Altai beekeepers are very skilled at spotting these conditions and always treat them using natural remedies proven over centuries. Antibiotics are never used, which is not only better for the bees’ health in the long run, but also better for the pure unadulterated honeys they make. 

In the Altai winter, snowmobile is often the only way to travel! 

Spring will soon be here

In a month or so, the Altai landscape will once again burst forth from its snowy blanket. The Chetvergov hives will be moved outdoors again, and the wonderful bountiful cycle of blossom, nectar and honey harvesting will begin once more.

In a world blighted by standardised industrial food production, the story behind pure Mishka honey – honey just as the bees intended – is one as old as time. And we can all taste the difference. Vasily and Michail – we salute you and your lovely beekeeping community!

Cart
  • No products in the cart.