TIME

The honeybee whisperers

WHEN PETER KOZMUS STEPPED OFF HIS PLANE FROM NEW YORK at the Ljubljana airport in Slovenia in 2017, he expected to quietly grab his suitcase at the baggage carousel and make his way home. Instead, when he walked into the arrival terminal, he was greeted by crowds of people cheering, applauding and waving the national flag. Kozmus is not a sportsman, a celebrity or a famous politician. He is a beekeeper.

And on that morning in 2017, he was returning home with a delegation from U.N. headquarters, having successfully petitioned officials to declare May 20 a global day for bees. “It felt as if we were heroes,” Kozmus recalls. “It was like we were athletes returning with gold medals.”

In Slovenia, beekeeping is a way of life. In this small European nation of 2 million, 1 out of every 200 people is a beekeeper. That is four times as many as in the European Union as a whole. Honey features in many Slovenian dishes, and Slovenes use “apitherapy”

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