Whilst the mountains are an amazing natural environment, and a place of pure magic for all those who are lucky enough to enjoy everything they have to offer, it can also be an extremely hostile one. Largely wild and untamed, immense willpower and determination is needed to live there. Mountain life requires specific characteristics that not all species have, although thankfully bees tick all the boxes!
After thousands of years of natural selection, the Savoie honeybee has armed itself with the characteristics needed to cope with its harsh mountain surroundings. Whilst other bees may be put off by temperature fluctuations, hard winters, shorter flowering periods and less sunshine, this particular bee takes it all in her stride.
Recognising her determination, the mountains have provided her with flowers that she alone can pollinate, making for delicious, flavoursome and unique honey. But this mountain bee needs to work relentlessly every day of her life, in a group.
During her 45-day summer, there’s not a minute to waste as she goes from one task to the next, taking part in the different hive and honeymaking activities. She may be in charge of keeping the hive clean, or taking care of the larvae and feeding them a mixture of honey and pollen, or perhaps ensuring a constant temperature of 34 to 35°C in the hive, maybe even watching over it to ensure the safety of its occupants, before becoming a worker bee who heads out daily to collect pollen. Each bee has a very specific role to play, and the dilligence for which they are famed helps them see their project right through to the end, with the production of honey.
A group of passionate professionals in the Belleville Valley have done their utmost to protect this emblematic species, creating Les Encombres Conservatory; a place for the dark bee to flourish and develop, protected from cross-breeding. They have also recently opened the European dark bee museum at Les Bruyères artificial lake, where visitors can discover the apis mellifera bee in a fun way.
Local beekeepers are on hand to show you their hives, teaching you about what their work entails, and giving you a better understanding of the intricacy of daily life for these tireless mountain travellers. Club Val Thorens members even have the exclusive opportunity to embark on a “Day in the life of a beekeeper” experience: dressed in protective clothing, get up close to the colonies in the hope of spotting the queen bee.
Spending time with Kelly, a passionate beekeeper who works with the dark bees every day, you’ll appreciate what a privileged relationship she has with them, seeing the complex nature of her work that requires rigour and commitment with your own eyes, not forgetting honey making, a mammoth task in a bee’s life.
One thing’s for sure, after this, a spoonful of honey will never taste the same again.
Would you also like to have the chance to live this experience? Join the Club Val Thorens!