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A bee-lover who knows how to pique curiosity

Rare are those places so imbued with the soul of their inhabitants. The Cité de l’abeille in Viscomtat is one such place. A peaceful, serene bee paradise

La Cité de l'abeille by Alain Benoît à la Guillaume

Rare are those places so imbued with the soul of their inhabitants. The Cité de l’abeille in Viscomtat is one such place. A peaceful, serene place, a bee’s paradise.

When Alain Benoît à la Guillaume bought the entire hamlet of Champet in 1985, nestled in the foothills of the Grün de Chignore at an altitude of 600 metres, he already knew where he wanted to go. The native of the Jurassic region, with little interest in schooling, had already found his way by following other paths and by dint of the obvious.

“I discovered beekeeping when I was 17. It was something that suited me. I could be outside and touch everything. I didn’t know yet that I’d be doing it for a living. At the time, I was only thinking of setting up a few hives for the bees”, recalls the 63-year-old.

Touche à tout

In Champet, 35 years ago, Alain Benoît à la Guillaume finally found the ideal setting to realize his aspirations. A place where the bee is queen and Man is welcome. ” I had this desire to welcome the public in a pleasant environment “, sums up the beekeeper.

At home, over a cup of coffee, ” a little honey in your cup? “, the owner is not one to waste time. Indeed, in this large room with its rough decor and meticulous details, minutes fly by like seconds. There’s no doubt that this affable man with his white mane and earring knows how to pass on his passion. He knows almost everything about the world of bees, but is always ready to listen.

A jack-of-all-trades (beekeeper, carpenter, photographer, etc.), Alain Benoît à la Guillaume has transformed Champet, over the years, into a huge beehive where you’ll find plenty to learn and enjoy.

Honey in all its forms 

From the honey he harvests each year, the beekeeper has developed a range of products that continues to expand: nougats, gingerbread and chocolates. Honey is everywhere at the Cité de l’abeille, so much so that the scent of this nectar permeates the premises. The honey is harvested at the bees’ whim.

What we take is really a surplus, depending on the space left in the hives by the beekeeper,” he almost defends himself. Because bees have a sense of the seasons. They have a duty to make endless reserves. In particular, they stock up so that the winter bees can feed themselves.

Militant discourse 

Grateful to his workers, the man is happy to champion their cause when it comes to ecological issues.

“During my career, I’ve seen beehives die. I attribute this to the insecticides used on corn. The bees don’t actually die, but they lose their sense of direction and end up losing themselves because of the chemical particles. These neonicotinoids have been banned since 2018, but corn growers want to be able to use them again,” worries Alain Benoît à la Guillaume

Harvesting honey at the Cité de l'abeille 

Instead of an overly frontal militant stance, the man opted for education and art to get his message across. This is how the Insect Festival was born 10 years ago. Every year at the Cité de l’abeille in Viscomtat, hundreds of visitors take the time to take a look at the little worlds around them. All insects,” explains the beekeeper. Because the problems are often the same.

The highlight of the festival is the beekeeper’s masterly photo exhibition, which magnifies every detail of the insects in motion. Photographed in this way, the bee, isolated and detached from the swarm, reveals its own personality. More than ever, they appear as genuine living beings that must be preserved.

A successful gamble for Alain Benoît à la Guillaume, who has many strings to his bow when it comes to arousing curiosity.

Viscomtat La Cité de l'abeille, Chamet
Guided tour every day at 4 p.m.

Reservations recommended on

Product store open 10am to 12pm / 3pm to 7pm

4.50€ (adults)

4€ (students/employed)

3.50€ (6/12 years old)

Free (under 6)


 Yann Terrat, journalist - La Gazette de Thiers-Ambert

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