Although a modern agricultural enterprise, beekeeping has very old roots in southern France. The straw skeps and cork-oak hives of the past are mostly in museums now, but a catalog of beekeeping history still exists on the landscape in the “murs á abeilles.” These stone walls were originally constructed to protect the fragile, rustic beehives from the weather and predators. Many have disappeared, but those remaining are cataloged in a book published by the Musée de Salon & De La Crau, Avenue Roger Donnadieu 13300 Salon-de-Provence, in 1993 entitled Des Hommes, Des Murs et Des Abeilles.
In general, the walls oriented south and south east and were located in the best honey producing areas. They were composed of niches to house the hives, averaging 19 to 31 inches in height, 23 to 27 inches in width and 12 to 19 inches in depth. The examples in the book range from the extremely primitive (Le Mur De La Ferme Des Abeilles near Salon de Provence) to a spectacular two-story example at La Chartreuse de Bonpas a Caumont-Sur-Durance. I hope to visit some on these during by travels, but if I don’t make it this trip, they no doubt will still be around the next time I visit France.