Beekeeping in France

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8
30
South of France
Experience
International
Hi everyone,

This is my first thread, so please be nice, and sorry if my english is not on point.

I'm a commercial beekeeper located in the south of the French alps, near Provence ( between Grenoble and Marseille, for those who knew a little bit of France's geography)
I'm 29 years old and owned more or less 250 hives ( which is a little/medium size of beekeeping farm here ). I ve started my own compagny 4 years ago, and for the past ten years, i worked on different farms around the country.

In the south of France, there is both users of langstroth and dadant hives. Personnaly I use Dadant hives with 10 frames . Mostly, we use 1/2 dadant box has a honey chamber.


buech.JPG

There is different honey flow trough the season that we try to reach. In march, the beginning of spring, i move my hives on "scrubland", a semi desertic mediterannean type of land wich we call " garrigues". In those type of places, it is possible to make Rosemary honey, and rarely thyme honey.

Then, we have the choice of moving hives on north, trying to make acacia honey, or we can move to the mountains meadows.
In june, we make chestnut honey, and just after that, take place the last and the most important honey flow of the season, the most emblematic honey of our region, the lavender honey.

Chestnut blooming
chatainier.JPG

Lavender field on the Valensole Plateau
lavande.JPG

For breeding, i have 1/2 dadant frame type of nucleus, called "haussettes". I mostly work with buckfast type of bees, every year I buy F0 queens to commercial breeders in Germany and Holland mostly.
haussettes.JPG

To move hives, I work with a spanish crane (apijuneda), that is veru useful, and my truck is a volkswagen Crafter ( 3.5 T)

grue.JPG

Than you very much, if you have any questions or commentary about beekeeping in France, I will try to respond on anything i can.
Sorry in advance if I ask obvious questions about beekeeping in NZ but i'm curious and there is plenty of things I don't know about.
 
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Bron

Staff member
Platinum
2,924
3,108
Gisborne
Experience
Commercial
Welcome to the Forum Gaspard. Your English is great! It’s always really interesting to read about beekeeping methods.
 
8
30
South of France
Experience
International
In april, a huge part of French beekeepers put there hives on the rapeseed fields. Since last years, I don't because now I 'm certified organic, so I can't make rapeseed honey, because there is very few organic fields of rapeseed. But this is one of the most produced honey in France, and a very good way to grow your hives ( but there is a high risk of swarming of course )
colza.JPG
 
Last edited by a moderator:
131
91
West Coast
Experience
Hobbyist
In april, a huge part of French beekeepers put there hives on the rapeseed fields. Since last years, I don't because now I 'm certified organic, so I can't make rapeseed honey, because there is very few organic fields of rapeseed. But this is one of the most produced honey in France, and a very good way to grow your hives ( but there is a high risk of swarming of course )
View attachment 164
SO do you feed sugar? Are the queens you buy in organically certified? Thanks for all your information, your English is great.
 
8
30
South of France
Experience
International
Thanks guys.

Yes, I give a little bit of organic sugar , about 5 kg / hive / year ( it is an average number some of them are not fed at all, it is mainly the new swarms). The queens I buy, both for F0 or F1 queens are not organically certified. Because the rule book of european organic certification allow 20 % of non organic queens that you can buy each year. ( This because there is very few organic queen breeder for the moment )

For disease and pests, the N°1 problem here is varroa. Personnaly, I use a method develloped in Italy, that spread here since few years.
The principle is to put the queen in a cage for 21 days after the last honey crop, and then where there is no more brood, release the queen and put between the frames an oxalic acid/sugar solution. It is a method that consume time, but very effective.
A lot of organic beekeepers make their own oxalic acid/ glycerin strips, but there is a big controverse nowadays because the governement don't want us do to that and they want to sanctionned both the beekeepers and the associations who make the tests and research about it ( this due to the pressure of pharmaceutic firms lobbying )
 

kaihoka

Gold
262
225
whanganui inlet
Experience
Hobbyist
In april, a huge part of French beekeepers put there hives on the rapeseed fields. Since last years, I don't because now I 'm certified organic, so I can't make rapeseed honey, because there is very few organic fields of rapeseed. But this is one of the most produced honey in France, and a very good way to grow your hives ( but there is a high risk of swarming of course )
View attachment 164
I have never seen lavender honey sold in NZ .
I have tried thyme honey and it was pretty strong .
What sort of honey is lavender, dark or light ?
 
5
10
Rocky Gully Western Australia
Experience
International
In april, a huge part of French beekeepers put there hives on the rapeseed fields. Since last years, I don't because now I 'm certified organic, so I can't make rapeseed honey, because there is very few organic fields of rapeseed. But this is one of the most produced honey in France, and a very good way to grow your hives ( but there is a high risk of swarming of course )
View attachment 164
I too have put my bees on canola/rapeseed (South West Australia) to build up over winter but like you say swarming is really hard to manage as they build up so fast. Other challange is the honey crystalising almost as soon as its capped and the bees become very aggressive when on canola.
 
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8
30
South of France
Experience
International
Hello Guys,

For us in the south of France, march is the beginning of the beekeeping season, so I will give you some news about it.
I recently moved some hives to the scrublands where we find wild rosemary spots, in the Var region.
The rosemary honey flows is not very powerfull but last long, usually it is a way to start the devellopement of the hives and then it is possible to consider a crop at the end of april. The honey flow is not very strong until the temperature reach 20 celsius . These days we had 14 -15 with some wind so the bees are collecting pollen and some nectar but the flow is not so strong.
The swarm season will comes at the top of the honey flow, usually around the firsts weeks of april.
Currently, there is between 4 to 7 frames of brood.
 

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8
30
South of France
Experience
International
Does lavender need temps of over 20 degrees to flow well too ?
Well, lavender blow at the end of june, so the 20 degrees are well passed. The honey flow is rather dependant on extreme temperature. The crop could be very small during heat wave or windy periods. The better weather is ( like most of flows I suppose) around 25 , no wind and a little bit of humidity
 
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E

Earthboy

Guest
Hi everyone,

This is my first thread, so please be nice, and sorry if my english is not on point.

I'm a commercial beekeeper located in the south of the French alps, near Provence ( between Grenoble and Marseille, for those who knew a little bit of France's geography)
I'm 29 years old and owned more or less 250 hives ( which is a little/medium size of beekeeping farm here ). I ve started my own compagny 4 years ago, and for the past ten years, i worked on different farms around the country.

In the south of France, there is both users of langstroth and dadant hives. Personnaly I use Dadant hives with 10 frames . Mostly, we use 1/2 dadant box has a honey chamber.


View attachment 158

There is different honey flow trough the season that we try to reach. In march, the beginning of spring, i move my hives on "scrubland", a semi desertic mediterannean type of land wich we call " garrigues". In those type of places, it is possible to make Rosemary honey, and rarely thyme honey.

Then, we have the choice of moving hives on north, trying to make acacia honey, or we can move to the mountains meadows.
In june, we make chestnut honey, and just after that, take place the last and the most important honey flow of the season, the most emblematic honey of our region, the lavender honey.

Chestnut blooming
View attachment 160

Lavender field on the Valensole Plateau
View attachment 161

For breeding, i have 1/2 dadant frame type of nucleus, called "haussettes". I mostly work with buckfast type of bees, every year I buy F0 queens to commercial breeders in Germany and Holland mostly.
View attachment 162

To move hives, I work with a spanish crane (apijuneda), that is veru useful, and my truck is a volkswagen Crafter ( 3.5 T)

View attachment 163

Than you very much, if you have any questions or commentary about beekeeping in France, I will try to respond on anything i can.
Sorry in advance if I ask obvious questions about beekeeping in NZ but i'm curious and there is plenty of things I don't know about.
Hi, I am in America and would love to plant Lavender but am having difficult to cultivate it due to different soil composition. But I practice treatment free beekeeping by capturing feral bees mostly so that my stock is resistant to both mites and Small Hive Beetles. It's good to see you working chestnut, acacia, and lavender, among others. What is the number one challenge in your operation? Just wondering.

Earthboy

Thanks guys.

Yes, I give a little bit of organic sugar , about 5 kg / hive / year ( it is an average number some of them are not fed at all, it is mainly the new swarms). The queens I buy, both for F0 or F1 queens are not organically certified. Because the rule book of european organic certification allow 20 % of non organic queens that you can buy each year. ( This because there is very few organic queen breeder for the moment )

For disease and pests, the N°1 problem here is varroa. Personnaly, I use a method develloped in Italy, that spread here since few years.
The principle is to put the queen in a cage for 21 days after the last honey crop, and then where there is no more brood, release the queen and put between the frames an oxalic acid/sugar solution. It is a method that consume time, but very effective.
A lot of organic beekeepers make their own oxalic acid/ glycerin strips, but there is a big controverse nowadays because the governement don't want us do to that and they want to sanctionned both the beekeepers and the associations who make the tests and research about it ( this due to the pressure of pharmaceutic firms lobbying )
Have you had any OA-resistant mites? If that happens, what are you planning to use next? I like your broodless period method.

Hello Guys,

For us in the south of France, march is the beginning of the beekeeping season, so I will give you some news about it.
I recently moved some hives to the scrublands where we find wild rosemary spots, in the Var region.
The rosemary honey flows is not very powerfull but last long, usually it is a way to start the devellopement of the hives and then it is possible to consider a crop at the end of april. The honey flow is not very strong until the temperature reach 20 celsius . These days we had 14 -15 with some wind so the bees are collecting pollen and some nectar but the flow is not so strong.
The swarm season will comes at the top of the honey flow, usually around the firsts weeks of april.
Currently, there is between 4 to 7 frames of brood.
Your seasonal flow seems to very much like ours in Oklahoma, USA. Usually our flow starts with acacia (psuedo robinia acacia known in America as black locust) which blooms around the end of the first week in April. Nectar flow continues till the end of June, very short, unless you have alfalfa fields or Vitex trees like I do.

Thanks guys.

Yes, I give a little bit of organic sugar , about 5 kg / hive / year ( it is an average number some of them are not fed at all, it is mainly the new swarms). The queens I buy, both for F0 or F1 queens are not organically certified. Because the rule book of european organic certification allow 20 % of non organic queens that you can buy each year. ( This because there is very few organic queen breeder for the moment )

For disease and pests, the N°1 problem here is varroa. Personnaly, I use a method develloped in Italy, that spread here since few years.
The principle is to put the queen in a cage for 21 days after the last honey crop, and then where there is no more brood, release the queen and put between the frames an oxalic acid/sugar solution. It is a method that consume time, but very effective.
A lot of organic beekeepers make their own oxalic acid/ glycerin strips, but there is a big controverse nowadays because the governement don't want us do to that and they want to sanctionned both the beekeepers and the associations who make the tests and research about it ( this due to the pressure of pharmaceutic firms lobbying )
>>>this due to the pressure of pharmaceutic firms lobbying. No matter where you keep your bees, the big pharma wants to monopolizes their profit and I am sick of it.
 
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Reactions: bighands
8
30
South of France
Experience
International
Hi, I am in America and would love to plant Lavender but am having difficult to cultivate it due to different soil composition. But I practice treatment free beekeeping by capturing feral bees mostly so that my stock is resistant to both mites and Small Hive Beetles. It's good to see you working chestnut, acacia, and lavender, among others. What is the number one challenge in your operation? Just wondering.

Earthboy


Have you had any OA-resistant mites? If that happens, what are you planning to use next? I like your broodless period method.


Your seasonal flow seems to very much like ours in Oklahoma, USA. Usually our flow starts with acacia (psuedo robinia acacia known in America as black locust) which blooms around the end of the first week in April. Nectar flow continues till the end of June, very short, unless you have alfalfa fields or Vitex trees like I do.


>>>this due to the pressure of pharmaceutic firms lobbying. No matter where you keep your bees, the big pharma wants to monopolizes their profit and I am sick of it.

Hello EarthBoy,

For most of southern beekeepers, our most important honeyflow is the lavender, because it is ( I guess ) more or less like the manuka in NZ.
I mean, it is a honey that we only produce in our region, and it can be sale quite easily. Furthermore, when the conditions are there, this is the best honey crop in volume.
The lavander like very dry calcareous soil. Cold temperatures is not a problem but they don't like humidity and rich soils.

At this time, in our country, there is no studies that prouve there is OA resistant mites. So, OA is the N°1 product used by organic beekeepers, by far. The OA strips are more and more popular here, home made ones and factory made ( in romania ). But it is not legal !

Below : Hives during the Lavender honey flow and a lavender field



 
E

Earthboy

Guest
Thank you for your reply and awesome picture of the lavender field. I am an advocate of no treatment in America. So I have been collecting and selecting wild feral bees and have not treated my colonies for the past 20 years. My problem here in America is not V. Mites but Small Hive Beetles (SHB). I cannot make summer splits any more because SHB will devastate. As the split grows, they cannot patrol new areas where they filled up with honey and pollen because their numbers are still too small, or sometimes a strong colony can be wiped out in three days by SHB's. They came to America in 1991. It takes about a decade for a pathogen and a host to reach an armistice (South African and Swedish Studies). So all the feral bees live with SHB. All my bees jump at the sight of a beetle, showing they have learned to defend. So I gave up making nucs in the fall and try to make splits in the spring, starting this year. It sounds like you do not have SHB issues in France, which is good.

Allan Construction Inc 006.jpg
 
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