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Interview

Everything you need to know about bees and honey in Monaco

beekeeper
Honey from Monaco is harvested twice a year, in June during the APIdays and in August - © Monaco Tribune

You can’t buy it, but Monaco honey has an exceptional taste.

They can be a little disconcerting when they tickle us in the middle of a picnic or a walk, but bees are very useful to mankind and perhaps we should learn to love them more. Did you know, for example, that 80% of our food is pollinated by bees? “Without them, we’d have much less choice of food, and we’d be saying goodbye to apples, pears, strawberries, avocados, courgettes and so on,” says Lucien Guerin, a retired beekeeper.

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The hornet: the main threat

As part of the APIdays* organised in the Jardin de l’Unesco on the terraces of Fontvieille from Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 June, enthusiasts informed the public, and in particular schoolchildren in the Principality, about the protection of this small insect whose population is drastically decreasing worldwide. There are many reasons for this disaster, but environmental degradation and the use of pesticides are the main causes.

In Monaco, the main predator of bees is the Asian and European hornet. “We lose a large proportion of our hives every year,” laments the beekeeper. Another threat to our yellow and black friends is the varroa mite. This mite attacks adult workers and bumblebees, but also larvae, disabling them.

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A dozen hornets are enough to decimate a colony of bees in just a few days – © Monaco Tribune

While traps are regularly installed in the Principality, those of you with a garden or even a small balcony can also make your own to support the work of gardeners. “There are lots of tutorials available on the web,” says one of the professionals present. They’re easy to make using materials you can find at home, such as bottles.

Honey from Monaco, an “exotic” taste

Although it is not sold commercially, a lucky few are able to taste this yellow gold, “made in Monaco”. It is distributed to children during the three days of workshops, as well as at the Prince’s Palace and the Principality’s retirement homes. “It’s a little present that’s usually given at the end of the year festivities,” says Laurent Pasteau, foreman at the Urban Development Department.

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Each year, the design for the label on Monaco’s honey pots is devised by local schoolchildren – © Monaco Tribune

“This honey has a very distinctive taste,” says Lucien. “It’s slightly exotic with notes of mango or lychee.” It’s an exceptional product that can’t be found anywhere else, thanks to the climate, but also to the wide diversity of flowers and vegetation in the Principality.

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Raising awareness among the Principality’s gardeners

While there are a few beehives in Monaco, notably at the Museum of Stamps and Coins, at the foot of the Odeon Tower and around Monte-Carlo Bay, bees are everywhere. Although they are scattered all over the city, there aren’t that many of them, and the teams of gardeners are careful to protect them as much as possible. “All the products we use are organic and we avoid treating the areas around the hives,” says one of them.

But this year, with the drought, the flowers whose nectar the bees love did not develop as expected. “Everything has become unpredictable for us,” says one beekeeper. Droughts, but also heavy storms linked to climate change, damage plants, which has repercussions for the bees that feed on them.

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* APIdays is an annual event organised around partner apiaries, entitled “The bee, sentinel of the environment and of beekeepers”. These national days are an opportunity for beekeepers to campaign, inform and raise awareness among public authorities, the media and the general public about practical measures to protect bees and develop beekeeping.

Read more about APIdays.