a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Honey, honey


It was first Violette and then pissenlit that we lost in May after they swarmed.  In each case the story was the same.  The colonies came out of winter very strong, but a week or so after they swarmed, the new queens did not manage to develop the colonies well.

I saw a bundle of bees on the grass in front of the hive

Bees around the queen on the ground

On close inspection Amelia and I saw the queen right in the middle, with the bees protecting her.

Bees around the queen

The story seems to have been similar with other beekeepers.  I talked to another beekeeper near us with 44 hives and she had lost 11 colonies after they swarmed.

So, despite the fact that in May and June we collected 10 swarms and gave them all away, we started the summer in our own apiary with only 3 hives.  Unfortunately when August came, the bees were once again attacked by the Asian hornets and I had to instal the modified muzzles with larger grills (1cm x 1cm) in front the hives  to protect them.  The hornets still come and take a few bees, but at least the rest are not so stressed.

our hives summer 2017

The acacias flowered and then the chestnut trees all around our house.  They were followed with the sunflowers.  Just a short distance away I could look through the woods and see the fields of sunflower

view around the corner looking at sunflower field

A short walk and there laid before us the yellow field

Sunflower field 2017

We did check the individual flower heads, and true enough, our bees were busy.

Sunflower 5 bees

At  6.45 am on 21st August Amelia and I removed the frames from the supers of all three hives and placed each of them in a separate plastic box and took them to my friend, Michel’s house for extraction.    Michel was standing in the garden, waiting for us.

The first stage was taking each frame and removing the wax before placing them in the centrifuge.  It was, however, immediately obvious that we had two distinct colour of honey; the darker one containing more chestnut honey was even more viscous.  So we tried to keep the darker honey separate.Honey getting ready for centrifuge

Once the wax was removed we saw beautiful glistening honey.

honey comb ready for centrifuge

Soon after placing the frames in the centrifuge and starting the motor, the honey started to flow.

Honey from the centrifuge

It is something truly amazing about honey.  Depending on the flowers near us, we get different colour as well as different flavour of honey each season.  Even the honey of our friend Michel who lives only a kilometre away  is distinctly different from ours.

Last year we had really yellow honey that obviously a large proportion of which came from the sunflowers.  Only two or three jars are left from last year.  We gave a lot away and now I wish we had kept  more for ourselves as the flavours of the individual honeys are so different and the yellow honey would bring sunshine into the winter days.

Last year’s honey is on the left of the picture below, with this years dark and light honey in jars.  The second jar from left is our spring 2017 honey, which comes mostly from the spring flowers and also the rape seeds.


At the moment my favourite desert is the natural yogurt that Amelia serves with our own raspberries and a drizzle of this year’s honey.  Delicious!

Yogurt desert with rasberries and honey

So another season has finished and a new season for the bees has started.  We will do everything we can to protect our bees this winter and hope that the winter will also be mild and mellow for  all of you.

– Kourosh


44 thoughts on “Honey, honey

  1. Keeping bees is an amazing window into another world. Thanks for the season’s wrap-up.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for posting, I enjoy following your blog and, as a beekeeper I am especially interested in your experiences with the Asian Hornet. We are just getting ready for the next invasion of the UK by this pest and I shall be talking to our local beekeepers about the Asian Hornet at the end of the month.
    I too have heard that the larger mesh works better on the museliere, both 12.5mm x 12.5mm and also 25mm x 25mm as the bees can get in easier yet the hornet is reluctant to follow. Do let us know how you get on with it.
    Please let me know if I could use your photo of the museliere in my presentation, it would not get distributed further.
    Best wishes (and I was sorry to learn you lost one of your hives last year to the hornet)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Andrew.
      Here we have tried a variety of methods to fight against the Asian Hornets. Other people have tried methods including poisoning the hornets and then letting them fly back to their nest. See attached (It is in French but I am sure you can follow it – especially see the video. https://natornatex.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/test-de-la-methode-israelienne-contre-le-frelon-asiatique/

      As for the muzzles last year I found the smaller size mesh just was no good. Some bees just died trying to get in. So far I have found that the 1cmX1cm mesh works pretty good. The bees can enter easily. Theoretically the hornet should be able to enter but they are too scared. Meanwhile the bees are less stressed.
      You are most welcome to use any of my material for display. I am also happy to share our experience.
      Best of luck – Kourosh


  3. So very cool. Makes me want to do this myself. Going to have to read up on the “how”.

    Nice photos too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s great how different all your honeys are. Honey on raspberries and yoghurt is one of my favourites too. Have you tried honey with soft cheese, Italian style?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Emily.
      I will certainly try soft cheese with honey. Honey is certainly so wonderful. I use it instead of sugar in cooking compotes. Also a spoonful of it in salad dressing makes all the difference. Best wishes to you. – Kourosh


  5. A really interesting post. It’s amazing to see the different honeys next to one another and to observe the difference in colour/texture – and, no doubt, flavour. I understand how discouraging it is to lose colonies – we also lost one over last winter, although another one just moved to the empty hive right next door! (We don’t have many at the best of times.)
    Beautiful dessert – and it’s so much more delicious when much of it is your own produce. We had honey for our Friday (weekend) breakfast today, served Egyptian-style with a flat and round, flakey-buttery pastry not unlike a croissant in taste… brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sylvia. I too used to enjoy many delicious food whilst visiting Egypt, many years ago.
      I hope that your colonies do well this year. Best wishes – Kourosh


  6. I hope the bees have an easy winter. Enjoy the honey!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, what an interesting, scary but productive year for you. Long may it last…Sue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue. One has to accept nature as it is. On the whole we are pleased with our honey collection and we hope the bees will do well this winter. One can always hope – Kourosh


  8. A brilliant record Kourosh, and like you I’m fascinated by the variability in honey appearance and taste. Your images of the range of honeys your bees have produced is amazing. I’m very envious… What a shame you’re so far away. I’d love to try some!
    best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoyed reading your description of the “bee year”. I was intrigued by the color and apparent texture of the spring honey — is it thicker and creamier? I got some honey from a friend in Wisconsin (next state to the east of me), and it was very creamy and a pale yellow, although I don’t know when or from what flowers it was made.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Sue. Certainly different honey has different viscosity. As each flow out of the centrifuge, we could easily notice the difference in viscosity, in colour as well as the taste.
      The description of the Wisconsin honey straight away reminded Amelia of clover honey. I looked up on the internet and in fact Wisconsin appears to be famous for clover honey. Mind you only white clover is OK for the honey bees. Red clover, which is the favourite of the bumble bees has too long a style for the tongue of honey bees.
      Of course nearly all honey comes from a variety of flowers and it is the mix that gives each honey it’s particular colour and flavour.
      Talking of clover honey, last year Amelia and I passed a short holiday in the Limousin region of France. The lady of the house we were staying served us a lovely breakfast and I complimented her on the honey on the table. She laughed and said that it was actually not honey, but what they call in the country “poor man’s honey”. It was her clover jam! Delicious, it was.
      Thanks again and regards – Kourosh


  10. There’s something very beautiful about your picture of the four honeys with the floral backdrop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Philip
      The comment on the picture, coming from you, is indeed a compliment. Thank you.
      The cosmos this year have been beautiful and I could not resist placing the jars near them.
      Regards – Kourosh


  11. How sad to see the bees huddled over their queen like that. The photo highlights their vulnerability. They are lucky to have such good friends in you and Amelia. I love the photo of the 4 different honeys.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I talk to the older beekeepers. They remind me that when they started young, they could leave the bees alone most of the year. There was far less large scale agriculture and hence less pesticide. No Asian hornet (they came to France only in 2004 and have now spread even to the UK). So, yes you are right, our poor bees are very vulnerable. The pesticide not only kills them, but disorientates them and they cannot find their home or they get weak and die outside their hives.
    We try and must continue to try harder, not only to protect our “girls”, but to try to educate our neighbours and friends.
    Thanks for your comment. – Kourosh


  13. Thank you, Kourosh, for the update . You continue to broaden my bee education. I wish you both…and your bees…a delightful and abundant winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Good to see you are enjoying the benefits of yours and the bees hard labourers. Ten swams from three hives is a lot to deal with, it must weaken the hives for the winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Brian, just to clarify a point, all our hives (in Spring we had four) did swarm and we caught the swarms. Other swarms came from elsewhere. That is quite common, as the presence of bee hives indicates to others that ‘hay, this is a good place to arrive!’
    Thanks for your comment – Kourosh


  16. Interesting to hear your experiments with mesh guards and I’ll take note 1x1cm seems to work, although I hope our apiary never needs to use it. I’m glad that otherwise you are enjoying the world of a beekeeper!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emma, I do hope that you never have to fight the beasts!
      I changed my mesh from the original 6mmX6mm to 1 cm square and the bees are doing much better. The hornets still attack them, but the bees in front their hive are far less stressed. The important thing is to leave a little entrance in front of the hive.
      Amelia and I are trying a variety of methods to fight the hornets, and I hope that we will manage better than last year. Only time will tell.
      However, I am as always happy to share our experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. How satisfying to enjoy your homegrown raspberries with your bees’ honey! I love the picture of the honeybees running around on the sunflower heads – the carder bees are not so gracious and were pushing each other off the sunflowers in our garden!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Emma. I do hope that you are settling well in your new home and hopefully you have kept your bee suit ready and will start new adventures.
      Do keep us posted. – Kourosh


  18. Good job! Honey looks delicious, Your job is very nice! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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