The Domaine de la Vougeraie, which has practiced a biodynamic approach to cultivation since 2001, is constantly working with respect for nature and the benefits it brings, both for wine and for the human race. And bees are symbolic of this biodiversity that is under threat. As such, the Domaine welcomed some prestigious new guests mid-June, with three colonies of Carniolian honey bees*. These pollinating honey creators will provide a beautiful contribution to biodiversity in the vines.
“The first few days have gone very well, and the bees are doing wonderfully,” says Julien Petitjean, beekeeper at the Château de Pierreux. Along with Jean-Claude and Michaël, two of the Domaine’s workers trained by Julien, he has created the optimum conditions for the new hives. From cleaning, to preparations to seeking out the best sites, nothing has been left to chance.
Each hive was delivered with five frames, worker bees, a fertilized queen, brood, and food stores. Provisions for the queen and her subjects will be regularly provided, with glucose syrup on offer until the end of autumn to make up for a low quantity of flowers. After which, they will be given candy through the winter.
Bees require constant monitoring. The hives will be inspected regularly from April to June to prevent the bees from swarming and the loss of some 30,000. The most important thing is that the queen lays from April to September to renew the colony. In August, a six-week treatment plan will be followed to combat the varroa mite. Then in winter, the beekeepers will keep a close eye on the temperature of the hives. Empty frames will be removed, and partitions added to preserve the ideal temperature and stop the bees hibernating too early or too late. It is reassuring that these bees, a Slovenian variety, are more resistant to disease and can survive even the harshest winters.
A honey harvest may not be the primary objective, but all this care and attention should ensure the production of some high-quality honey. There will be a series of harvests over the seasons: First from acacia, then lime blossom, followed by summer honey, and maybe a final crop in September or October. It’s almost impossible to estimate the quantity, but it could be as much as 20kg per hive. Despite all our care and attention, we cannot do anything about the weather. So, let us hope Mother Nature is kind, and the royal court is happy at the Domaine!
*These bees take their name from the historical region of the Duchy of Carniola, in modern day Slovenia, whence these insects hail.