Beehives on the Domaine

An interesting fact about vines is that they are hermaphroditic and are therefore able to self-pollinate. Bees pollinate about 1% of the tiny vine flowers. But they still play a crucial role in vineyard biodiversity, as they pollinate the flowers, trees and grasses in and around the vineyards, which add nutrients back into the soil.

We are absolutely delighted that Provençal beekeeper, Philip Prior, has entrusted us with some of his beehives on the domaine. In early summer, Philip moves the honey bees to higher altitudes like Mercantour, the Ardeche and Les Alpes de Haute Provence making a variation of honeys: lavender, mountain, pine, lime tree, chestnut and others. The bees will be moved back to the domaine in the cooler months.

Philip is a passionate beekeeper and has been working with bees since 1997. After gaining his diploma at the agriculture college at Hyères in 2008, he worked with INRA (Avignon) on a scientific protocol observation in 2010 and 2011, through the lavender honey production. Prior Apiculteur was set up in 2010, working on Mediterranean honeys and fresh pollen.

Philip offers workshops and lectures about the fascinating world of bees and honey. Other activities include breeding queens and producing new colonies. He also transforms honey in many different ways; making black and white nougat, honey wine and honey wine vinegar, as well as quince chutney, quince fruit paste and quince jelly.

The Guardian newspaper declared bees to be the most important species on the planet. After 23 years of beekeeping, I can absolutely agree. She not only feeds us, but also feeds everything else in the world!

Philip Prior, Provençal Beekeeper

Understanding Bees

In a nutshell, there are three castes in a bee colony: workers, drone males and a queen; all of which have their role. In Spring, the colony reacts to nectar and pollen becoming available. The queen will lay as many eggs as she can to build the colony. When the environment is abundant, the queen will start producing male bees. This can lead to swarming where the old queen leaves with a certain number of bees, leaving the original colony. A selection is made for future queen(s).

How to avoid being stung

Living with wildlife requires us to learn about our co-inhabitants, and to understand their behaviours.

  • Don’t hover near the hives, especially at the entrance! You can walk past quietly, but don’t hang around. We don’t enjoy it when strangers loiter near our homes, neither do the bees.
  • Minimise vibrations – avoid loud noises near the colony such as chain saws, tractors, etc. as it affects the hive. The bees change their focus from gently pollinating and gathering pollen to full-on protective mode. It’s the same as having someone shouting loudly near your sleeping baby…
  • Be more cautious on windy/cloudy/rainy days. When the sun is shining, life is great as pollen and nectar is bountiful, and the colony is full of busy little bees. La vie est belle !

If you’d like to learn more about bees (and beekeeping), take a look at Philip’s brochure and contact him directly if you’re interested.