The benefits of beekeeping
I pity those who keep bees only to earn money. They deprive themselves of a very sweet enjoyment.
However, money is necessary to live. Money is useful to those who like to spread happiness around themselves.
Consequently it is justifiable to imagine that this could result from beekeeping.
But reading certain books and certain periodicals may lead to error on this point.
To encourage a return to the land or to deceive those who return there, beekeeper committees or some anti-French people published some staggering things in the newspapers. Perhaps there were also selfish beekeepers among them professing poor results so as not to create competition.
Thus a prominent beekeeper claims that a harvest of only 10 kg is a rare maximum. At the other extreme, a professor asserts that honey harvests should average 100 kg per hive if rational beekeeping methods are adopted.
A doctor declares that in America a single hive can yield an average annual harvest of 190 kg of honey, and that it is up to us to make it as much. Doubtless this would be by giving each hive 200 kg of sugar. But would not the fraud be exposed?
No type of hive, no method of beekeeping turns stones into honey. Neither do they make the beekeeper any wiser, or increase queen fertility or improve the ambient temperature. As a result the yield of a hive varies from one region to another, from one hive to another and from one year to another, just as does the nectar wealth of the region, queen fertility, temperature and the skill of the beekeeper.
When I lived in the Somme, I had an average annual harvest of 25 kg per hive. In a region with a high nectar yield one can harvest more. Here at Saint-Symphorien, in a region which is poor for nectar, I average only 15 kg. To be exact: in 1940 I had hives that cost me 300 francs each. Each gave me a harvest of 15 kg. Now the price of honey was fixed at 18 francs wholesale, 22 francs retail. Furthermore, each hive required one and a half hours of my time in the course of the year.
One can see with this how work and capital are rewarded in beekeeping, even in a region poorer in nectar.