Catherine Flurin, an Organic Beekeeping Pioneer
The awakening. In 1976, the 20 year old Catherine Flurin was fascinated by bees and wanted to become a beekeeper. Beekeeper from the Nature & Progrès network taught her the basics of the enchanting vocation of "bee whispering". However, at that time, the beekeeping methods taught to Catherine were focused on maximizing production, using intensive, sometimes harsh methods, antibiotics and harmful herbicides. Right from the start, Catherine took the opposite approach and developed a method called Apiculture DOUCE® based on respecting the bees’ welfare and their natural biological cycles. A new world opened up to her: that of the inhabitants of the Hive, an ongoing story which is millions of years old and which has reveals new secrets every single day.
"Bees show us that there is another way to work with nature, giving us an example that we would do well to follow: they create gold (honey, which is both a food and a medicine), they provide for their needs without ever harming the environment. In fact, they create and support rich biodiversity in their environments thanks to the process of pollination."
- Catherine Flurin
The first hives. At the age of 25, Catherine set up her first hives with her fellow beekeeper and partner, Philippe Ballot, with whom she now has three children. The young couple bought a little tumbledown property in the foothills of the Pyrenees on a two hectare site in the deep countryside. Ballot-Flurin Apiculteurs was officially formed in 1982 with a highly-ambitious goal: to respect the bees as befits their importance to the world, to nourish the communities they have formed for the last 100 million years, to understand their secret language, and to actively work with the hives to aid them in creating in the most pure honeys, propolis, and royal jelly. They were amongst the first beekeepers to take action and campaign for organic beekeeping, greater emphasis on bee welfare, and the abandonment of the use of chemical products in raising hives.
The first charter. The honey house and its methods attracted a loyal, ecologically-aware clientele. Catherine drew up a guideline explaining the process of honey production but also her attitude towards her bees. This document inspired the Nature & Progrès nonprofit to draw up the first organic charter for the beekeeping sector, developed in tandem with a verified labelling strategy. It seemed only natural that Ballot-Flurin products were the first to receive certification under this.
Hive treasures as cures. As years went by, Catherine picked up the threads of old family traditions with a desire to care for people’s health and contribute to the well-being of society as a whole: she became interested in the use of bee-made materials for medicinal ends, an age-old, natural approach to treating ailments using the finest products from the hive. Catherine came from a long line of doctors and humanists who were continually ahead of their time. Her father, Dr René Flurin, was an pioneering ENT specialist in Cauterets, a famous Pyrenean spa town, where the Pavillon des Abeilles is now located.
"I have always known that bees can be used to treat ailments and I treat myself with the bees: their venom relieves my back pain, propolis soothes my skin irritations. So I delved into family writings and old books, looking for instructions on how to use what used to be called the ‘medicine’ of the hive: royal jelly, propolis, pollen, beeswax and honey-based treatments."
The first bee product-based treatments. The ‘Baume de Soin des Pyrénées’ healing balm was the first product in the original range of hive-based treatments that came out in 1992. After this came black propolis extract, throat lozenges and honeyed soaps and shampoos. Catherine next secured the classification of propolis as a food and obtained organic certification with the AB label. Initially used by a small group of well informed people, Ballot-Flurin products gradually gained in popularity amongst a more ecological and future-forward clientele who were enthusiastic users of natural health and beauty treatments. Ready-to-use and completely organic, these products won over the BIOCOOP French network of organic retailers, which began to stock them regularly towards the end of the 1990s.
International recognition. Catherine Flurin continues to research the use of hive-based treatments and methods of dynamization. These disciplines are based on the observation of bees and traditional knowledge, and is currently the subject of renewed interest in the scientific and alternative medicine communities. Increasingly in demand for her expertise in the field of ‘Using bee products to treat medical ailments’, Catherine Flurin created the Association Francophone d'Apithérapie (AFA – the French-speaking Apitherapy Association) in 2009 along with Profs. Descottes and Bensch, Dr Stangaciu, Claudette Raynal and other pioneers in this field. The progress being made in the field of Apiculture DOUCE®, Apitherapy, mental and physical well-being, and dynamization are regularly mentioned and recognized at international conferences and lectures. Some processes have been patented (procedures for pollen harvesting, propolis extraction, energy-centred approaches and techniques).
Ballot-Flurin’s expertise is based on a nature-centred approach and promotes the observation of the natural world and the use of our environment’s natural products. Bees show us that it is possible to create effective products in an environmentally-friendly fashion which do not cause the side-effects that are common in chemical-based pharmaceutical products.
The product of tireless research in the honey house-research laboratory, the Ballot-Flurin Abeilles & Santé range is a collection of 100% natural, certified organic health and beauty products sourced from the hive.