apiculteur and abeilles beekeeper and bees (c) Kristin Espinasse


un apiculteur (aah pee kuul tuur) noun, masculine
    : beekeeper, apiarist

Example Sentence: (note: the sound file will be back soon... some technical difficulties today!)

Aujourd'hui on fait la connaissance de l'homme qui murmurait à l'oreille des abeilles. Today we meet the man who whispers to bees. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"On Entertaining Angels"

It was the apiculteur, the beekeeper who arrived unannounced, or seemingly so (I would later learn that he and my husband had another one of those French arrangements whereby the one Frenchman had mentioned to the other that he would be by "dans la journée". Such are the specifics down south).

As the plans revealed themselves to me, there beneath the looming mulberry tree, I hunched over my lunch plate, as would a dog thrown a new bone: selfish-prone. I might have picked up my bone and moved it a dozen meters, over to the bush behind the clothesline, as Braise or Smokey might, but for a human snag called "manners". 

Seated with the harvesters at the picnic table, my nose now buried in a plate of charcuterie, I could not hide and so I tried, once again, to eradicate this stubborn sin: one of not letting others in.

I did my righteous repetitions...
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise. 

I did my many mea culpas...
Lord, forgive me!
Lord, forgive me!
Lord, forgive me! 

Until my husband, more of a hands-on type, came over and all but plucked me up by my evangelical ear:

Chérie, c'est l'apiculteur.

I stood up and nodded as only a dog with a bone in her mouth could: with an are you going to take it from me or may I keep it? stance. (Time and Space being my meaty bone.) 

Thankfully, our unexpected visitor was spared the war going on in "there": inside my heart I knew that a warm welcome was the only way. I could catch up on "alone time" at some point in the future. In Heaven, for example. If I ever make it there.

Bonjour, Monsieur! I managed a smile. I stood there now, in front of the picnic table, debating whether to invite the man to join us for lunch. It's almost one o'clock, he must be hungry.... or maybe he had eaten?  

I stood. And I stood.... And when Jean-Marc began chatting on about the harvest... I slipped away, right over to my plate, and shoveled down my lunch. The food was tasteless, as good as guilt.

Chérie, Jean-Marc said, as the apiculteur walked off, Monsieur is going to check the bee hive. Why don't you go and get your camera?

"And what about your camera?" I countered, returning to my conversation with harvester Lou. Soon, I slipped away from that too. I could not concentrate. I became a distant listener, my eyes scrambling over Lou's shoulders and up to the front gate to spy on the bee guy.


The apiculteur put on one of those bee "space suits". He wore the classic rattan hat with a slight brim. A net covered his gentle face (for he did have a gentle face, that much I saw). 


I watched him pry off the ruche-top, then stop to re-apply smoke to the area and so put the bees at peace (if not to sleep). Next, he began lifting out the honeycombed slides inside. 

bees and the beekeeper (c) Kristin Espinasse

I asked Lou to excuse me while I ran into the house in search of my camera. Arriving near the scene, one slow step at a time, I felt a strange calm. The apiculteur was carefully studying the slides which were half full with honey. He stared at his stinging subjects and their honey stores as if for the first time. He stared as Romeo to Juliet. He stared as Narcissus on seeing his own silhouette. It was love. Apiculteur amour.

honeycomb (c) Kristin Espinasse

The beekeeper gently set down one slide, returning it to the ruche, and picked up another. A cloud of bees surrounded him, some stinging his bare hands. With each piqûre he calmly reached down and plucked out the dard. Eventually he reached for his gloves, slowly pulling on the protective wear. His motions were as punctuated as peace: no stops, no goes, all movements came together in one even flow. Smooth as honey.

apiculteur or beekeeper and bees or abeilles (c) Kristin Espinasse

I gravitated toward this serene scene. Perhaps, I wondered, quiet as a honeybee I, too, might touch him... taking with me some of that calm and inner peace.

Post note: After experiencing the beekeeper's bonhomie, I could not get to the kitchen fast enough... in time to pile high a plate with the best our kitchen had to offer. It was simple fare but judging from the look on the beekeeper's face, it might have been the next best thing to honey.

Le Coin Commentaires
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French Vocabulary
un apiculteur = bee keeper
dans la journée = sometime during the day
la charcuterie = cold cuts
Chérie, c'est l'apiculteur = Dear, the bee keeper's here 
Bonjour, Monsieur = Hello, sir
une ruche = beehive 
la piqûre = sting
le dard = dart 
bonhomie = good-heartedness  


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Bill in St. Paul

A great story, Kristin, that a lot of us can relate to. I'm a little surprised that there's only one hive. Are there other hives and who "owns" the hives (i.e., who gets the honey)? It would seem to me to be a great business to provide hives for farmers but where the beekeeper gets the honey as his "payment".

AmyK in DC

I loved today's story! Your writing style is so lyrical and hypnotic when describing the apiculteur that I found myself almost swaying for a minute or two. The contrast between the opening tension and closing tranquility is beautiful!


Perhaps when I move to France I will drop in to meet with your apiculteur (Je suis un apiculteur aussi). Biologically, the queen bees are a little different than most other species of life form. The "fertilized" eggs that she lays become female bees (workers or other queens) and the non-fertilized eggs become male bees (drones). There is a little riddle that does with this knowledge that you must try to figure out...

A drone has no father and it has no
son.... but it does have a grandfather
and it does have a grandson....

Can you figure out why?


Stephanie van Reigersberg

Beautiful story.

Ear is "oreille" and is feminine, just in case....


Hi Kristin,

(Jean-Marc) 'plucked me up by my evangelistic ear'
I really enjoyed your choice of words! They say absolutely everything about Jean-Marc making you face simple reality without an ounce of melodrama in the background... "la réalité pure et simple"...

Did the “apiculteur” come to check the beehive *frames because you wanted to know if it was time to 'harvest' your honey? Or because you had a problem? Hope it was for the first reason but I know there are problems these days with bees. Anyway, I think your bees are in full swing, busy-buzy-buzzzy.
The "apiculteur" created such a beautifully quiet and happy scene! Lovely to see you relaxed and so many thanks for using your camera!

I guess it is impossible for you to do the checking if you don't have a *beekeeper suit and necessary *protective clothes.
Interesting to get some photos with 'the bee man' using his *smoker –> the tool 'par excellence' to safely open the beehive and check the frames without disturbing the bees. Kristin, you may not have realised at the time, but I believe that smoke had a quietening effect on you too and helped to remove all your previous anxiety.

Did the bee man take away the frames and deal with the extraction of the honey?
Or did he leave them to you to do the extracting and pouring of your own golden treasure into jars?


About my words preceded by an *

*le cadre = frame
*un enfumoir = a smoker
-> enfumer une ruche = to blow smoke into a beehive

*vêtements de protection = protective clothes
*une combinaison d'apiculteur = a beekeeper suit
Specially for Larry:
-> here is a selection of them, with French names and illustrations

'Harvesting honey':
I enjoyed watching "la récolte de miel" shown in this video,
Hope you enjoy it too

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Fred said yesterday - and I agree - that you are a "masterful tease". Your stories draw us in, inspire reflection and give us the chance to share our human-ness.

Thanks for being able to skip away from your solitary mood to capture in words and picture the angelic gift presented to you that day (and consequently ours, too).

I'm so glad he finally put his gloves on!!!! yikes

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Larry, please let us hear more from you about the drone bee. I can't figure it out other than to say like baldness it skips a generation???

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

Great post today!

Here are some definitions to consider:

Bee-ware = Clothes that beekeepers wear.
Bee-cause = The movement to protect bees from insecticides.
Bee-lieve = What to yell at bees that chase you.
Bee-hind = What you should cover.
Bee-rating = A measure of quality for beehives.
Bee gone = What you should do when bees are chasing you.

À bientôt


Karen, Kristin and others...

The drone comes from an unfertilized egg, hence no father. HOWEVER, the egg comes from the mother (Queen). In order to have a mother (queen), she was developed from a fertilized egg..hence, she had a father (maternal grand father to the drone).

The drone cannot produce a son (unfertilized egg)but can help produce a fertilized egg (female) which in turn can produce a unfertilized egg (drone son).

Hope this helps....Larry


You know...I never thought of beekeepers as needing inner peace. I could sure use some of that for myself.
I think I will put up a new statement on the fridge door, to remind me of this ah-ha story.

Ken Boyd

No comment really .
I just loved todays post .

Ken Boyd
Protector of Felines



I'm dying to hear you answer to Newforest's questions!



Thank you for the reminder Kristine, the scenes of the apiculteur and the ruche reminded me of growing up, we had 10 hives and my dad would do exactly the same...such pleasure in dealing with tame bees. After a while, the bees knew him so well, he did not even wear his netted hat!
A great weekend to you and your family,

Robyn Daniels

Bees are wondrous little creatures aren't they? They always remind me of a stay in Crete where I bought a beautiful bee pendant like the one on this website with 3 beads of honey dangling from it

In Crete also the bee signified the life that comes from death, as did the scarab in Egypt.

You are Queen Bee of your own domaine Kristin! Busy; organising; bringer forth of sweet sustenance.

Gwyn Ganjeau

Hi, Kristin--

Just this morning i remembered a funny story that relates to Wednesday's post and unexpected guests. While living in Montana, i heard a great story about two aging and eccentric sisters from a well-to-do ranch family who lived together deep into their vintage years. They took to the habit of always wearing their hats in the house. If someone showed up unexpectedly that they were delighted to see, they'd say, "How lucky! We just returned from some errands! Do come in!" BUT, if it was someone they were not so tickled to see, they'd say, "Oh, we're so sorry--we were just on our way out. Perhaps another time, when we are expecting you."

I'm guessing there are lots of great stories about those women.

Have a great day, all!

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Herm - very funny. Your are the bees knees.

Larry - thanks!! Very interesting.

Keith McDuffie

Your bee story is a gem--a great contrast between your rebellious mood and the calming effect of the apiculteur, and the way life has of dealing us surprising, quite unexpected experiences. An outstanding vignette...

Keith (Pittsburgh)

J Lund

*Cherie* for you. Cheri for Jean-Marc.


This was a story of my own heart! Loved it, Kristin..and want to share a bit of bee love myself. I wrote a post on the Quimper Club blog about a Malicorne platter which was painted with a scene of early beekeepers. You can see it at this link on the August 5th post.
Hugs from Arizona, Cerelle


What a wonderful story,Kristin!
Told as only you can!You painted pictures with your words!
Something so tranquil about bees,the sound they make as they go about their work.My belle pere had hives;he didn't use gloves (like the apiculteur in the first photos)--
and the honey(?) Oh,wow!
What a pity that they say bees will be hugely diminished in the next years. Already
notice many less in our garden.-- Natalia


Bill, this is our third hive (to be clear: same beehive, different bees! The first two colonies left when a piece of the hive was missing: a part that goes under the "roof". Excuse my lack of bee vocabulary!

We get to keep the honey. The beekeeper came over just to check things out and assure us things were going well.

Stephanie and J Lund, I appreciate the corrections. Thanks! I've updated the post.

Larry, thanks for the interesting facts and for the riddle, which made my head spin.

Newforest, I've changed it to "evangelical" ear - but am glad you liked the first expression ("evangelistic"). Thank you for your words about "la réalité pure et simple" (I shall try to stick to that :-) Re the bee questions, I think I've now answered most of them in the note to Bill. The honey is not ready for extraction... we'll see about that later. P.S.: loving the vocabulary... which brings me to:

Herm! What would we do without you? Always bringing a smile and a chuckle to our day. Thank you for the laugh-out-loud terms.

Gwyn, enjoyed the stories of the ladies :-)

And Cerelle, just read your article. Hats off to you.

Mille mercis for the positive feedback and for taking the time to write such kind words! I was very nervous about writing this story.... I hope the beekeeper will understand.

Mary Catherine Pace

Poor Kristin,
Just like recalcitrant children, sometimes we are just not our best. But we try to teach our little ones, as well as ourselves, to reach for our better manners when our temperamental spirits want to resist. You recovered your better nature quite nicely, with a little encouragement. Life is practice.

Fred Caswell

100 per cent agree with Amy K in DC.

Herm, playing with words is one of my joys. Thanks!

Never did get my own hive(s) but joined a bee keepers group and witnessed many enlightening events.

Dear Kristi, are you aware of how your charming revelations of your inner experiences seduce your readers who love you like a dear family member?

Comme toujours!

Fred Caswell

If memory serves me well, it was stated by a bee keeper that bee stings can help with the plague of arthritis which lurks hidden within us all, waiting to strike sooner or later!

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Fred

My mother had many beehives and she would pontificate on the benefits of honey to fight arthritis. Also, honey and vinegar is a well known remedy for just about any disorder known to mankind. Check this link:

Jennifer in OR

Bee-eautiful story!!

La voisine

Happy apiculteur <3

Sandy Maberly

Kristi, I never would have known that all that turmoil was going on within you when the beekeeper arrived. You seemed so calm as you always were each day when all of us would invade YOUR hive during the harvest. Then again, maybe I had my head down in my own plate and just didn't notice the buzzzz of activity. :-)

Lynn McBride

A story as sweet as the honey those bees were making. Merci.


Bonjour Kristin!
I really enjoyed the bee story today!
It is quite timely since I just took my daughter to see an amazing movie "Queen of the Sun" about the global honeybee crisis.
The link for the movie is here:

I will also attach a trailer of the film which includes an interview with Yvon Achard, Bee Historian in Grenoble, France!!

Merci beaucoup encore!!!!
Bien amicalement!



Queen of the Sun trailer:


Denise in the Pacific Northwest


I'm glad you raided your kitchen - there's always good, and sometimes intriguing, stuff in there.

I wanted to let you know that I've posted an as-of-yet unseen photo of last year's harvest dinner (which contained some tasty things from your kitchen, if memory serves). You can go here to see it:


Joan Linneman

Two reactions to the story in addition to my admiration for the lyrical writing in today's post. First is recommenadation for a film called "Ulee's Gold" with Peter Fonda as a beekeeper. Second is that on one of my student tours to France, we learned from an awesome tour guide named Pascale Hime that the Opera Garnier has a working beehive that has been in operation "forever." Apparently you can buy its honey in the Opera gift shop. I think that's "genial." Joan L.

Kristin Espinasse

Cecily, mille mercis for the link to the trailer for Queen of the Sun. WOW! :

Thanks also for the link to the site: 

Will hope to have the chance to see this film.

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