In Switzerland, bees are kept in lowland as well as in alpine regions. Besides wild flowers, the major honey plants are fruit trees, dandelion, rape and chestnut in the lowlands, and alpine rose in the Alps. Bees are traditionally kept by amateurs, and most colonies are kept in stationary apiaries. The annual average yield of honey is ca 10 kg per colony. Swiss beekeeping practices ensure mostly honey production without major residues.
In Switzerland, beekeeping is mainly a hobby which is of high importance for the country’s plant diversity and agricultural production. The number of beekeepers and bee colonies have strongly decreased since their highest levels (about 350,000 colonies), which was before and during World War II (Fluri and Fricke 2005). In 2007 there were about 170,000 colonies and about 19,500 beekeepers left (BLW 2008). Today, the average density of the bee population in Switzerland is considered to be adequate enough to still assure a sufficient pollination of cultivated and wild plants.
Organic beekeeping in Switzerland differs from conventional beekeeping mainly in the sustainability of the production methods. Production methods are regulated by the Swiss organic farming ordinance. The majority of Swiss organic beekeepers are members of Bio Suisse. Bio Suisse does not allow the use of thymol against Varroa mites, because the presence of residues in organic honey is considered unacceptable to consumers, even if they are small and unproblematic from tte toxicological point of view. Some organic farmers are members of Demeter. Demeter requires biodynamic beekeeping practices and does not allow thymol. The private association ‘Arbeitsgruppe naturgemässe Imkerei’ (AGNI) is the umbrella organization of all organic beekeepers in Switzerland. Most of the organic honey is sold by direct marketing and by organic traders.The demand for organic honey is much larger than the Swiss production; therefore, large quantities of organic honey are imported.
“From Various Internet Sites”