What is Jara?

Jara is a traditional beehive that has been used since ancient times for domesticating bees in Georgia.

There is no evidence for when exactly Jara appeared. However, several local folktales note that ancient inhabitants found the bees in a tree hollow that they called this place in the forest ‘the bee tree’. Later, locals understood that the ‘bee trees’ could be replicated. They collected swarms of wild bees and settled them into hollowed wooden logs and then placed them high up in trees to protect them from bears. Such wooden logs were called Jara. After the invention of frame beehives in the 19th century, Jara hives were increasingly replaced by modern beehives. But there are still few places in Western Georgia where Jara hives are still used to make the wild honey Jara.    

What Makes Jara Honey Special?

Jara honey is a very rare top-quality organic wild honey found in Georgia. It is 100% pure and wild.

Wild beekeeping techniques are rare these days, but Georgia is one of the few places in the world that has preserved wild beekeeping in remote dwellings located in the subtropical and alpine zones of Western Georgia. Here, only a ten dozen beekeepers continue the difficult but ancient tradition of the domestication of wild bees – which is an excellent example of mutually useful coexistence of wild nature and humans.

Jara hives provide an opportunity to create true and uniquely flavoured wild honey through the replication of the tree hollow concept – the natural home of wild bees, without artificial wax and free from the involvement of beekeepers. Jara honey is also served with the honeycomb. This is top-quality honey produced from wild flowers, earning a place of honour on your table.

Who inhabits Jara?

Caucasian Mountain Grey Bees (Apis Melifara Caucasica) inhabit Jara hives.

Georgia is the homeland of the well-known Caucasian Grey Bee. Georgia’s complex climate has paved the way to the evolution of the breed. At an average length of 7.2 millimeters, over half a millimeter longer than that of other honeybees, the Caucasian bee’s tongue can reach nectar that its competitors cannot. This trait coupled with a propensity to fly earlier, later, and in cooler conditions, its high resistance and its docility, results in a bee that is well known for its outstanding ability to obtain nectar from more types of flowers and in larger volumes.

What does Jara look from inside?

The model of the Jara beehive is a replication of the natural habitat of the bees in tree hollows.  

A Jara is a hollowed log cut in two. A Jara is mainly carved from the Linden tree (Tilia begoniifolia Steven), which is chosen because it is lighter in weight and has no specific smell, so as to not disturb the bees.

Making Jara is a journey for the beekeeper. Some of them choose a special day for cutting wood – for example, the first Wednesday of February, because it is thought the Jara will be strongest in that way. Jara beekeepers usually walk 4-6 km to the forest, where they carefully select the wood they will use for the Jara.

Jara hives have different lengths and sizes, which range from 70 to 120 cm. The length of the beehives is one of the factors that determine how much honey can be produced. On average, one Jara beehive can produce up to 19 kg of honey in a season.

The Jara hive sets its own rules. A Divider splits the Jara in two, where one half of the honey belongs to the bees and the beekeeper is allowed to harvest from the other half.

Upper Cover holds the honey comb and protects the hive from the outside world.

Bottom Cover should be carved in a way to perfectly fit with upper cover.

Brood Chamber is the part of the hive where the eggs, larvae and pupae develop. Some of the cells in this part of the hive also hold pollen, nectar or honey, which is used to feed the developing larvae.

what are the jara sites?

Traditionally Jara was hanged, in the forest, in a tree at 4-5 km walk from the village, to protect the hive from bears and other wild animals. It was common practice when the daily routine of locals was more linked to the forest.

Rock is the safest place for Jara but the most difficult for harvesting. The Jara hives, placed on wooden supports on cliff faces, at about 1200 meters above sea level, are mesmerizing and frightening to see, because the first question that comes to mind is how is it possible?

With the development of agriculture and weakening links with the forest, the locals began placing the Jara hives in the garden near their homes. It has given them the opportunity to collect swarms immediately and increase the apiary and its productivity.

Beekeepers, living in higher mountainous places, protect the Jara hives from severe winter conditions through placing the hives in specially built wooden shelters, that are located in the best spot of the garden to make it easier for bees to thrive.

In some communities Jaras are placed on the house. These communities are originally and tightly linked with beekeeping. Bees are part of their hearth and home.

How Jara Honey is Harvested?

The Jara hive is harvested only once in a year mainly at the beginning of the autumn after the ending of the flowering period.

Harvesting honey from a Jara hive is much more difficult and labor-intensive than common frame beehives. The process requires special preparation. As a rule, honey from a Jara is harvested by two people. However, additional support is needed for a Jara hive placed in a tree or on a rock. Beekeepers use special instruments such as oval knives, smokers, ropes, balancers (Kombali), pulleys (Makhara), and branch-ladders (Ghja) for harvesting honey. First the beekeeper opens and observes the hive inside to understand whether it is possible to harvest honey. If there is enough honey, the beekeeper cuts honeycomb from half of the hive and does not touch the other half where the bee colony brood is located. Honeycomb can be different in color as it contains the honey from different plants and flowers such as the acacia, chestnut, linden and a vast number of alpine flowers.  

Discover jara

Nowadays, Jara hives are mainly found in the Ajara region of Georgia

The Ajara is a historical region in Western Georgia, known for its beauty, subtropical landscapes, 121 km coastline, forested green hills and mountains. The mountains, which reach over 3,000 meters in height, are home to dozens of mineral water springs, deep river gorges, breathtaking waterfalls and charming remote villages. The region is well-known for its rich cultural heritage. However, its main treasure is its people with their strong traditions, and Jara is one of them.

Ajara is one of 34 biodiversity hot spots in the world, determined according to the importance of the biodiversity and its danger of extinction. This means that these spots are particularly biologically rich, but at the same time particularly endangered. 

The region of Ajara is particularly diverse and often called ‘a museum of nature’. It has survived glaciation and preserved unique species of flora and fauna, many of which are not found in any other part of the world.