Heatwaves Cripple French Honey Harvest

Beekeepers in France are bracing for an all-time low in honey production due to this summer’s extreme temperatures and forest fires.

Several intense heatwaves and a series of devastating blazes have created highly difficult circumstances for apiarists in wide parts of the country.

The Federal Association of French Apiculture (UNAF) described this honey harvest as “disappointing and mediocre.”

The country’s 70,000 beekeepers are expected to produce between 12,000 and 14,000 tonnes of honey this year, UNAF announced.

The organisation said: “We were hoping to get back on track this year after 2021 which was the worst period in the history of French apiculture.”

Only 19,802 tonnes of honey were harvested at apiaries across the western European country in 2021, down sharply from 31,791 tonnes of the previous year. Preliminary figures for 2022 have not yet been released.

Illustrative image of bees, undated. (NewsX/Bee)

Droughts and temperatures well over 35 degrees centigrade pressurised flowers and pollinators in France this summer, UNAF explained.

Especially firs, chestnut trees and lavender have suffered, according to the association, which described honey production levels in many regions as “worse than mediocre.”

UNAF said many plants essential to bees and other insects such as sankbuckthorn and heather burned to the ground during the summertime fires.

Regional ecosystems were dysbalanced by global warming, UNAF said. Numerous flowers have been blooming earlier than some years ago as part of a climate change-induced process that started well over 15 years ago, according to the organisation.

While sunny conditions are beneficial to bees, they struggle with temperatures as experienced during summertime heatwaves.

Adult honey bees can weather temperatures of up to 50 degrees centigrade. However, bee larvae are not as robust.

Beekeepers and residents can support the colonies by placing small bowls of water on windowsills and balconies.

France is one of the main locations of honey production in Europe.

Around 1.8 million beehives can be found all over the country. This means that France takes fifth place among the 27 European Union (EU) member states behind Spain, Romania, Greece and Poland.

The number of hives in France increased by 3.3 per cent from 2020 to 2021. Most apiaries are located in the southeastern region Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes.

There are around 20 million hives in the EU. The association of nations is not self-sufficient when it comes to honey. To cover citizens’ demand, substantial amounts of the product are being imported mostly from Ukraine and China.

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