City life is a honey trap for France's beleaguered bees

Insects swarm to haven on Champs-Elysées as apiarist highlights danger of rural life

In Aesop's fable, the country mouse scurried home from the city with his tail between his legs. But in Paris, French bee-keepers are finding their charges have better luck in the buzz of the big smoke than they do in rural climes – living longer and producing more honey.

While bee colonies across rural France are dying in swarms, two beehives that have been on the roof of a giant exhibition hall beside the Champs-Elysées since last spring are thriving.

The experiment in urban living for bees is intended as a warning signal to the French government, which has been accused of ignoring the plight of rural bees and bee-keepers.

In May, the Grand Palais exhibition hall decided to place two beehives on the edge of its huge glass and steel dome. Each beehive contains over 80,000 "buckfast bees", a British species described by experts as "gentle, prolific and resistant". Four months later, more than 100lb of honey has been gathered from the two hives.

It is not the prestigious address or magnificent views which make the bees so productive. What they adore is the urban environment, even though it is heavily polluted by car exhaust.

"We notice that apiaries located in the heart of Paris get better results than those in the countryside," explained Nicolas Géant, the French bee-keeper who initiated the project at the Grand Palais in order to draw attention to the predicament of rural bees.

"Towns offer myriad small flowers in parks and on balconies, as well as a wide variety of trees along streets and in public gardens. By contrast, there is no longer enough food for bees in rural and cultivated areas. The mortality there is 30 to 50 per cent but very small in Paris."

Henri Clement, president of France's main apiarist union, Unaf, says changes in French agriculture have damaged the bees' habitat. "Both monoculture and the intensive use of pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers kill massive numbers of bees," he explained.

For the moment the new tenants of the Grand Palais seem to be enjoying their life in the busy capital. "We have not received complaints from them yet," jokes Majorie Lecointre, one of the managers of the exhibition hall. Three additional beehives will be placed on the Grand Palais roof early next year.

But the city slickers will not be enough on their own to save beekeeping – and the crucial role it plays in agriculture, severely under threat because of a dramatic decline in bee populations.

"People have to keep in mind that the future of beekeeping is not in cities," said Mr Clement. "Bringing bees into cities is just a way to ring the alarm bell for the French government. We need to have bees back everywhere in France because 35 per cent of global food resources depend on insects and 80 per cent of that is from pollination by bees."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Assistant Marketing & PR Manager

£16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment