Born in Breznica in 1734, Anton Janša developed an interest in painting from a young age. He shared this interest, or possibly established it, along with his two brothers. Despite their illiteracy, they all packed up and went off to Vienna to enrol at the engraving school there. Now, only one of the brothers would graduate and further their work in the art, but Anton would go on to make his name in a different field, that of beekeeping. He was no stranger to bees. His family had a history of beekeeping, and his father had over 500 hives at home. Discussions about beekeeping would dominate talk at the tavern with all the local farmers. By 1769 he had entered full time work as a beekeeper, and in what seems like something of a meteoric rise he became the first royally appointed teacher of apiculture for all of the Austrian-owned lands.
Janša’s duties were fairly simple, but important nonetheless. He kept the bees in the imperial gardens, but his main task was to travel around the land presenting his bee observations, and he had plenty of them. He came to change the size and shape of the hive, meaning they could be stacked upon each other like blocks. He also used his experience as a painter and decorated the fronts of hives, which were previously bland and uninspiring. He would write two books in German during his work at the court, entitled ‘Discussion in Beekeeping’ and ‘A Full Guide to Beekeeping’. His bee lectures were famous throughout the lands, and he popularised the method of smoking bees out of their hives for the honey. He would die in Vienna in 1773, of typhus.
His work was influential enough to be considered the only resource for those in the Austrian empire who studied apiculture following his death, and he is considered one of the fathers of European apiculture. The 19th century saw further developments in apiculture, and although the 20th century would see us push on our attempts to eradicate the bee, the art is still practiced today. Slovenia is the only country that officially protects its national bee no less, and Janša would probably be very happy with this fact.