VATICAN CITY - The pope's bees had a bittersweet year
producing a lower-than-expected yield due to intense summer
The bees live on a 50-acre farm at the papal summer villa in
Castel Gandolfo, a small town in the hills southeast of Rome.
Despite their hard work, the one-half million bees only
managed to pull in 176 pounds of wildflower honey -- produced
from nectar from surrounding gardens, fruit trees and other
blossoming trees like chestnut. Temperatures and rainfall can
affect both nectar production and restrict honeybees from
The honey crop was produced by eight beehives, which were
donated to Pope Benedict XVI last year by members of
Coldiretti, an Italian trade group that promotes agricultural
education and lobbies to protect agricultural land and
promote farm-friendly policies.
Italian farmers belonging to the organization also gave the
pope his own vineyard of native red and white grape
varieties, Coldiretti said in a press release Sept. 20. The
donation was part of the group's "locavore" initiative to
help produce a papal wine while producing zero carbon
emissions next year.
The group planted 1,200 square yards of grape vines this year
"in a striking corner" of the papal gardens "under a statue
of Christ giving his blessing," it said.
They also donated the necessary equipment for processing the
grapes and new oak and chestnut casks for the wine to age
properly in the small papal wine cellar.
The vineyard was given to Pope Benedict as a way of
commemorating his first words to pilgrims gathered in St.
Peter's Square on the day of his election April 19, 2005,
when he called himself "a simple, humble worker in the
vineyard of the Lord."
The papal farm is home to an olive grove, fruit trees and
greenhouses used to raise flowers and plants which often are
used to decorate the papal apartments and meeting rooms.
Each day, 25 cows produce more than 150 gallons of milk, and
more than 200 eggs are collected from some 300 hens. In
addition, about 60 chickens are raised for meat.
What the pope and his aides do not use is sold to Vatican
employees and retirees at their discount supermarket.