The Queen Bee
by Danae Bersi, Content Creator, New Agriculture for a New Generation

Catherine Apostolopoulou is an experienced apiculturist, from the area of Sofades in Karditsa, where she currently lives with her husband and their two children. I had a chance to talk to her about her past, her involvement with apiculture, her participation in the Apiculture training program of the “New Agriculture for a New Generation” program and her future plans and dreams. Nevertheless, what struck me most was the love I realized she had about the "fantastic world of bees," as she told me.

Katerina has studied Business Administration and has worked in the private sector for over 10 years as an office worker, but one day in 2014, she decided to leave it all behind her and pursue a career as an apiculturist. Maybe the reason was her husband, who works in a company that manufactures special equipment for beekeeping. During the same year, she quit her job in the private sector and hesitantly started with 14 beehives.

From the very first time, she loved her job so much that she decided this is what she should do for the rest of her life. The reasons were not economic, although the private sector had high insecurity, she said she just loved nature. "I was working among people when suddenly I found myself close to nature. Everything here is so calm and the world of bees is magical! "she told me. Of course, she admitted that "Apiculture has a lot of difficulties, especially during the first few years, it takes time and investment", something that she managed to do as now, she can say that she can make a living out of working as an apiculturist.

Catherine introduced me to the unique world of bees and talked to me about the different types of honey – I even learned about the bitter honey that comes out of strawberry trees- as well as the difficulties and the peculiarities of the profession. With the help of her husband, they move their beehives as they go to different areas, for fir, pine or flower honey, which flourishes in their area, "Beekeeping is not just a profession, it's many professions combined together. You have to become an herbalist, a doctor, a meteorologist and so much more, "she told me.

Catherine learned about the Apiculture training program of the “New Agriculture for a New Generation” program online. When she read that it would take place in her hometown of Karditsa, she didn't hesitate to sign up. “I saw it as an opportunity for me, as trained and experienced people from universities all around Greece would to come to Karditsa. I was already thinking of going to Athens for some seminars because I wanted to learn more since I was an amateur until then "she said. For her it was important that “the seminars are taking place all over Greece, not just the big cities, this is really an innovation".

Although she loves to read a lot and learn new things on her own, she told me that "The seminar has helped me a lot through practical exercises. For example, we had 10 beehives, in which we practiced all the processes needed to produce honey. I saw things I couldn't understand on my own". She also told me that after attending the program, the key areas on which she felt better as a professional were both the diseases - how to recognize them, how to cope with them and how to prevent them - as well as that of raising queen bees. Most of us may not even know what that means but raising queen bees is highly important for apiculturists. “Our teacher, Mr. Charizanis, has shown us the way and the procedures necessary for us to make our own queens, good queens, so that we can have not only productive but also happy bees! If the queen is well, then the rest of the bees are well and the honey you produce is good” she said.

In fact, Catherine wants to attend the second level of the apiculture training program this year as well. "I have heard that there will be a 2nd level seminar in Trikala and I would like to attend it because it will be for professional beekeepers and teachers will focus specifically in our areas of interest, such as diseases and raising queen bees", she told me.

After completing the training seminars, she currently has 150 beehives, along with her husband. "I was able to become more independent on apiculture, while at the same time the program’s teachers were so good that we still contact them every time we have a problem or face a challenge”, she told me. The couple's plans are to double their beehives over the next few years and at the same time to create their own packaging plant so that they can certify their organic honey.

Catherine feels that the change she made in her life has borne fruit. After all, it is clear that her choice was right, because every time she talks about her job and her bees, her eyes light up. "The bees are like my children. They are not only my property, they are my joy, they are part of the family! Everything about bees is interesting. If you open the beehive and you have a chance to see how they work, you are mesmerized, and you think: we humans should also be like that!”. Just before we left, Catherine told me "I can't think of leaving this job now and doing something else, I wouldn’t change it for nothing!”.