Yesterday I visited a prominent beekeeper in the Department of Var outside that Department’s old prefecture of Draguignan (the present prefecture is the city of Toulon on the coast). Jean-Philippe Mandard is found in the town’s tourist guide, and is also listed among the numerous beekeepers of Provence. He runs 400 hives; ten yards of 40 hives, each located in different parts of the Department. His equipment is in several sizes, the Dadant Jumbo, Langstroth and a associated frames; his supers are mostly 7 1/4 inches deep.
Mr. Mandard’s hundreds-year-old house perches on a hill above Draguignan. His honey house and equipment barn is much newer, with separate temperature-conditioned rooms for honey and a cold room for super storage; allowing him the control wax moths without the use of chemicals. He used to have to use PDB for this. He has a 54 -frame extractor manufactured by Thomas, one of France’s large equipment manufacturers.
Mr. Mandard’s hives are on pallets (4 colonies/pallet); he has two forklifts and one medium sized truck. He produces several kinds of unifloral honeys, rosemary, lavender, chestnut, honeydew (miele de sapin) from firs in the foothills of the Alps and three more: miele de Bruyère, miele de montagne (mountain) and a bitter honey with a limited market in Corsica, miele d’Arbousier. In discussions with him, I found out that he is experimenting with Apilife VAR®, from Italy as are others here now that fluvalinate treatments are not so effective.
He uses antibiotics sparingly and not on every hive. He told me that most colonies started from queens imported from the U.S. have broken down with foulbrood when he doesn’t treat with Terramycin. He finds this unacceptable. Does this mean that U.S. beekeeping is more hooked on antibiotics than we realize? The general practice is to preventatively feed colonies antibiotics; especially those whose disease history is not known, and once on a feeding program, colonies are not taken off. If the French experience is valid, this tendency is being spread through commercial queens in the U.S. What this might portend in the long run is not known.
Mr. Mandard is one of twenty-seven apiculturists on the official list for Red Label lavender honey. The Red Label is one of four quality assurance marks available in France. It indicates an agricultural product has a mixture of specific characteristics that confer on it superior quality and comes from a long tradition of this kind of quality control in wines. The other possible quality labels are: L’appellation d’origine controleé used in wines and milk products, the Certification de Conformité, and finally, Agriculture Biologique. The latter is what might be referred to as the “organic” label; it is based on using no synthetic chemicals, recycling materials and employing biological control techniques.
Three honeys are currently listed as red label in France according to the 1996 Qualitor–Le guide officeil de la qualité agro-alimentaire. Significantly, two of three are from the Provence region. This book lists what is required for each label, the producers who have been granted use of the label, as well as the brands authorized to carry them. It also reports the approximate number of kilograms or tons produced by recipients.
The prime Red Label honey in Provence is Lavender. It must be from nectar of two lavender species, Lavendula latifolia and Lavendula vera, or their hybrids. Twenty-seven producers have this label. Multifloral honeys of the region of Provence can also have a Red Label. This honey must come from plants in the Provence region, including fennel, thyme, chestnut and others. The Qualitor lists fifteen qualified producers. Finally, a Red Label can received for honey dew from fir gathered in the Alsace region. It is primarily produced by those beekeepers who migrate to that area. Eleven are listed in the 1996 Qualitor.
Only one producer has the Agriculture Biologique label. I have been told this is possible here providing producers employ no antibiotics and also use organic materials like oils of essence for Varroa control.