Spot the Queen bee of this hive (she's marked with a yellow dot and is slightly larger):
Throughout the year the bee-keeper has to move the hives to different areas, because of where the flowers are, to get the different flavours and during the time of our visit was busy moving his hives from all over the Alps to closer to the coast for winter. All of this has to be done at night when the bees are all inside and is very stressful as a broken down truck could mean half a million bees from 100 hives waking up in the middle of a sleepy village and heading outside when the sun comes up! The different flavours this produces are really distinct in the honey and is so different from the bland, ultra-sweet supermarket honeys we'd known in the past. He covers a large area, driving more than 50,000km in six months to visit, monitor the health, check and harvest from all of his 250 hives, including near Grenoble where he gets Lavender, Acacia and Chestnut honey, the Hautes-Alpes where he has hives in the valleys and at higher altitudes, and special places near the coast to get the Bruyere.
All in all we were with the bee-keeper for a little under 2 hours and the time just flew by. We had learned so much about bee-keeping and honey production and the craft and passion that goes into this small-scale, artisan production compared to the mass produced cheaper lines. Apparently it is even possible to make 'fake honey' now just using sugar and flavourings and some companies mix this with their honey to bulk it out without customers knowing! Being able to visit ourselves and enjoy the experience, just because we had met someone at the local market who was really passionate about their work and wanted to share it, was a real privilege.
One of the benefits of staying in one area for a long period is that we've been able to meet so many people like this who clearly love what they do and we have been very interested to learn a lot about different, traditional ways of life and trades. During the very high season it had been a little difficult as the people we had met wanted to tell us more but were so busy keeping up with the regular markets and work demands that there wasn't always time, but now in between the summer and winter seasons there is a really interesting opportunity for us to see the seasons changing and experience this area with a more local feel and pace of life.