Published on: 05/20/2022 – 07:04 While 15 departments are already subject to water restrictions due to an early drought, farmers are worried about their crops. A threat that also weighs on beekeepers and their bees, whose food could run out this summer. In Thomas Devienne’s apiaries, the spring harvest “was not bad”. But it is in the coming weeks that things could go wrong. “It shouldn’t continue like this”, warns the beekeeper from the Lille region, worried to see that “the lawns are already well burned”.Like farmers, professionals in the beekeeping sector have the eyes on the weather as France faces an early drought. Temperatures have been soaring since the beginning of May and groundwater levels are particularly low for the season after a winter and autumn with little rainfall.”Given the drought and the risk of heat waves, we are very worried about the second part of the season with the big harvests: chestnut, lime, lavender, fir …”, details Henri Clément, spokesperson for the National Union of French Beekeeping (Unaf). >> To read also: “The climate change is catastrophic for honey production” In 2021, the beekeeping sector had experienced the worst year in its history with only 7,000 to 9,000 tonnes of honey harvested, due to unfavorable climatic conditions, half less than the The previous year. A nectar that is becoming rare If it is much too early to make forecasts, in the Alpes-Maritimes, the consequences of the drought are already palpable. The honey harvest was almost nil in the department in the spring. In question, very low rainfall but also low temperatures. “We had very unpleasant temperatures from February to April, with a painful frost. It’s not just the drought, it’s a set of factors”, nuances the Provençal beekeeper Jean-Louis Lautard. If the bees need water to live, they mainly need to feed on nectar, a sweet liquid produced by flowers. However, with the lack of water, the plants have trouble growing, jeopardizing the food supply of the bees. “If the plants suffer, they cannot produce nectar, preventing the bees from taking it to make honey”, explains Henri Clément. “Lack of water for the animal itself is quite rare, the problem comes of the plant resource”, specifies Pascal Jourdan, director of the Association for the development of Provençal beekeeping (Adapi), a structure founded in 1986, which carries out research work around the bee. The lack of food then consequences on the hive population. In times of scarcity, the queen reduces her laying, which means fewer foraging bees and lower honey production. Enemies of the bee To cope with these unfavorable weather conditions, some beekeepers practice transhumance: they move their hives to take advantage of milder skies, where flowering has not suffered from a heat stroke. Practice anchored for several centuries in certain regions, the operation is done at night when the bees are asleep. Thus, Jean-Louis Lautard has just moved part of his hives in the department of Ain, further north. He comes there to look for the acacia flower, which blooms until the end of May and which bees love. “I follow the bees as the shepherds do with the sheep. I try to adapt and not live in worry because by definition, it is a very random production, you have to accept it”, philosopher the Provençal beekeeper. “In Provence, the end of the season takes place in the mountains or in the lavender plantations”, adds Pascal Jourdan. “We will therefore be very dependent on the climatic conditions in these areas, not on the climate on the coast. However, if there is no rain during the end of May and in June, there, we is clearly heading towards a disaster”, adds the expert. Especially since drought is far from being the only enemy of these guardians of biodiversity: parasites, pollution, pesticides or even Asian hornets are decimating bee colonies in France. and elsewhere. “From a mortality rate of 5% per year in the mid-1990s, we went to 30%”, recalls Henri Clément. “300,000 colonies which disappear each year in France must be reconstituted by beekeepers”, adds the spokesperson for Unaf.>> To see: “Neonicotinoids: is Europe sacrificing its bees?”To reduce this alarming mortality rate, professionals in the sector plead for massive support from the public authorities for agroecology or even better control of phytosanitary products.
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