Italy's largest farming association gave Benedict XVI eight beehives containing more than 500,000 bees last Sunday.
The beehives will be kept at the pontifical farm of Castel Gandolfo, where they will be used in pollination and the production of honey (some 617 pounds a year).
Coldiretti explained that bees "play a vital role in the planet's ecosystem and their disappearance would have disastrous consequences for health and the environment; a third of human food production depends on crops pollinated by insects, 80% percent of which are bees."
The "Campagna Amica" Association will provide technical assistance to the pontifical farms to oversee the protection of the bees and the production of honey.
Castel Gandolfo is considered to be a model farm because it unites traditional production methods with modern technology. It has 25 dairy cows, 300 hens and 60 cockerels, as well as an ancient olive grove producing three thousand liters of oil a year, an orchard of apricot and peach trees and a greenhouse of ornamental flowers.
In comments to L'Osservatore Romano, Sergio Marini, president of Coldiretti, said the gift was a sign of gratitude to Benedict XVI "for his constant encouragement of the daily work of those who cultivate the earth."