French bees and honey production damaged by heatwave

Thousands of bees and beehives suffered due to the unprecedented heatwave conditions in the south of France this summer, beekeepers have reported.

15 September 2019
Bees and hives suffered in the hot temperatures in the south of France over the summer
By Connexion journalist

High temperatures of 46°C were seen in late June in the Hérault and the Gard, leaving bees unable to control the temperature of their hives, causing honey to melt and bees to perish, experts have said.

Christian Pons, who has been a beekeeper for 15 years near Montpellier (Hérault), told news network 20 Minutes that the end of June had been “catastrophic” for his hives.

He said: “We lost 80 hives due to the due to melted wax that overcame the colony and the queen.”

A hive contains 40,000 to 60,000 bees, and the temperature must be maintained around 34-35°C, Mr Pons said. Bees regulate the conditions by gathering or dispersing, he explained, but when outside temperatures rise, they cannot do so.

Mr Pons said: “It was so hot outside that the bees couldn’t ventilate the hives. At this point, the honey is positioned on top, and the wax melted, crushing the larvae and moving down to the bees and the queen. The wax blocked the exits so well that bees and queens died trapped inside.”

The beekeeper said that the issues had been particularly bad in the Hérault and the Gard, but had affected dozens of beekeepers and hundreds of thousands of bees.

The extreme heat also damaged flowers and vegetation, damaging the amount of honey that could be collected.

Mr Pons said: “In a normal year, we normally do almost two tonnes of wild honey. This year we did 150kg.”

Beekeepers can take certain measures to help, including putting the hives in the shade and painting the roofs white, but depending on the temperatures, the efficiency can be limited.

Some have claimed compensation.

Muriel Pascal, a beekeeper in Lozère (Gard), said: “In 11 years, the speeding up of the effects of climate change has been enormous. We have been left with a 50-80% drop in production.”

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