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Who wouldn't want to have a beehive (ruche) in their back garden, these days, especially with the dwindling numbers of bees around and the consequences? But, before you embark on setting up your own hive and becoming a beekeeper (apiculteur), you need to know the ins and outs of what it means to keep bees in France.

You can keep bees in France and you don't have to even live in the countryside to do so. But there are some rules to follow.

The beehive should be facing the south or the south east and the bee ramp or the flight board, where they leave or arrive in the hive should be south facing. They should be in the sun, therefore. If you have more than one hive, then you should have them at least a metre apart. But remember that buying bees and getting a queen bee is not an easy task and there are official places that you can find on the internet in France, but often they either have a waiting list or they run out rather quickly. So, you might arm yourself with patience. Bees usually recognise their own hive and so it might be a good idea to change the colour of your hive or plant different plants around them, to help the bees reach the flight ramp. But bees can only see blue, green and ultraviolet colours. Yellow, for example shows up as a type of green. The hives should not be on the ground but raised to stop humidity.

Don't put your hives anywhere that is going to cause alarm to the bees. Just a branch of a tree kicking against the hive might result in scaring them. Make sure they have a water supply also nearby. Honey plants, or plantes mellifères should also be nearby.

The regulations for keeping bees in France in your garden is that they must be at least 10m from any buildings or the property of the neighbour, unless there is a wall or a separation (hedge, for example) that is at least 2m above the level of a flight ramp of the hive. If it is a public building or the road, then that distance must be at least 100m. But, generally-speaking it is advisable to look at the Prefectoral obligations in the region in which you are to determine the distance.

In the event that you wish to sell your honey, in whatever quantity at all, even the smallest amount, then you will have to obtain authorisation to do so. A special declaration has to be made on line determining the exact place of the hive. This is from the very first hive that you buy. You will have to have a special SIRET number for a business if you wish to sell your honey also. The first declaration is always made at the time of purchase. But all subsequent declarations (annually) have to be made between 1st September and 31st December. This is essential to keep a check on the development of the numbers of bees in the country. It also allows for the providing of information if diseases occur, and medication for the bees. There is also the possibility of benefiting from European subsidies. It is obligatory, even if it is only for private use to declare that you have a beehive (since 2016).

  • The cost of buying a hive is about 90 euros for a hive with 10 frames, in a kit form.

  • If it's already set up and fully working, then it usually costs about 200 euros for 10 frames.

  • A swarm of bees can cost roughly 250 euros (essaim d'abeilles).

  • A hive can usually produce about 18-20kg of honey.

  • 1kg of honey can be produced by about 6,000 bees after having foraging (butiner) 8,000 flowers.

  • There are roughly between 40-80,000 bees in a hive.

There are 20,000 different species of bees in the world, 1,960 in Europe and 1,000 in France. 1.3% of the bees in France die each year and that number is growing year by year due to pesticides and pollution and urbanisation. The accidental introduction of the Asian Hornet is also devastating for bees. They can kill up to 70 bees a day. There are some 60,000 beekeepers in France today. 40% of wild bees are now on the verge of intinction in France. All of this should be remembered in so much as 75% of our food comes from the pollination by bees, which can't be replaced for the moment. If bees were to become extinct, it would have not only ecological results that would be catastrophic, but it would cost the French economy 3 billion euros in lost revenues in agriculture.

French Admin can help you get the declarations done and start making your honey. That means declaring where the hive is and getting a SIRET if you are intending to sell it.

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