Protecting the Sicilian land bee and starting a women’s business is a dream come true on land seized by the mafia.

“My dream was not to start a business, my dream was to be in touch with nature.” Irene Russo becomes emotional when talking about her creation called Nivura, a new initiative that deals with the conservation of the Sicilian black bee, a subspecies of the common bee with unique characteristics, whose habitat is precisely in the Palermo region (and also in Palermo). Trapani region). 41-year-old Irene’s wish came true thanks to Innovagrowomed, a project co-financed by the European Union through the Eni CBC Med programme, which aims to strengthen women’s employment and business skills in the agri-food sector. In the Mediterranean Region.

How was Nivura born?

Russo says: “I have always had a deep connection with nature and am passionate about ethology. I have always tried to do my part to protect the environment, even through conscious consumption. As a result of Covid, it will allow me to do on a daily basis what was always on my mind I definitely developed the desire to create something.” The publication of the Innovagrowomed tender in June 2021 is the first step that takes Irene Russo into her new adventure. After attending the courses, the dreamer becomes a bit of an entrepreneur. And so, thanks to the support of Cesie Ets (European Center for Studies and Initiatives), we arrive at Nivura, which means black in the Sicilian dialect.

The hero is obviously himselfSicilian apis melliferaA subspecies that was at risk of extinction in the 1970s and was saved thanks to the work of the entomologist Pietro Genduso and the breeder Carlo Amodeo, a student of Genduso himself, who preserved this insect and transferred it for a time to some small islands in Sicily. Irene Russo seems to be a descendant of these guardians of the Sicilian black bee. Its operational base is located in Ciaculli, on land that was seized by the mafia and became the Sokult nature club. An educational social apiary open to the public has been established here and has already welcomed many visitors: preschool children, students and more. Among the first to set foot on this strip that was once the glittering Conca d’Oro are two Spaniards, members of the Rural Employment Network created by Fundación Santa María la Real, which aims to inspire good practice. Projects to create employment in rural areas.

Educational workshops on the Sicilian black bee

“Nivura – explains Russo – is and always will be sustainable beekeeping, the main aim of which is to preserve biodiversity by preserving the uniqueness of the bee.Sicilian pis mellifera. Now my goal is to make as many people as possible aware of bees, learn to respect them and therefore protect nature and biodiversity. Without biodiversity, our planet would be almost uninhabitable.” Despite her innate bent towards the environment, becoming a beekeeper was not a walk in the park for Irene Russo. “When I started attending courses I found myself surrounded by thousands of bees – she recalls – it was very impressive for me. I was a little scared, and today during educational visits I try to convey exactly this message: During a workshop held recently in a secondary school, a student was terribly frightened and wanted to run away when he heard a beekeeper coming. of bees. Little by little I began to explain bees to him simply and directly. At the end of the day she said: ‘Can you please bring me a tightly sealed jar of bees?’ That was one of the nicest things a child could say to me. That’s what educational laboratories are for; “to help people understand that all living things, even the smallest ones, have an essential role.”

In schools or other places outside Ciaculli’s property, Irene Russo demonstrates all the characteristics of the Sicilian black bee through her educational hive. “This is an instrument that allows us to look into the small, buzzing world through glass panels. It is easily portable and completely safe,” continues the beekeeper. “Another way to teach – he adds – is the pergola that allowed me to create what I renamed Nivura’s wandering Bee Spot: a structure with completely transparent walls that allows you to remain attached to the beehive without any risk”.

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It is also true that the Sicilian black bee is very docile, but necessary precautions must always be taken to avoid being stung. In short, although it has a very natural approach, it seems that no detail has been overlooked in the creation of Nivura, which decided to benefit from advanced technology in order to better monitor the health of the bees. “Through sensors – explains Russo – it is possible to detect the weight of the hive, the internal temperature, the external temperature and the humidity level. This also allows you to control the situation from home, that is, when they are not here, if they are not here. If the data were unstable, the bees “I could run to the hive and check what was going on.”

First Nivura honey production

First Nivura honey

Although still in its infancy, Nivura already has a small, practically experimental production: late wildflower honey obtained thanks to the hives housed by AgroMini, another reality emerging thanks to Innovagrowomed located in Collesano in Madonie and the soil deals with renewal. “Wildflower honey – says Russo – is often discredited, thinking that it always tastes the same no matter where it is produced. But this is not the case: it is a honey that takes on the characteristics of the soil in which it was born. So the honey we will have here in Sokult is different from the honey in Collesano “: this is because each region has its own biodiversity and, above all, here in Sicily there is a regional endemic flora that should not be forgotten.” Among other things, the Sicilian black bee, like others, has natural cycles and is especially productive in spring, but it also has its own unique feature. Nivura’s founder continues: “It has the ability to search for food even during periods of the year when other bees do not do this. Thanks to this feature, it is possible to have winter honey such as medlar honey or almond honey.”

Source: Today IT