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
Monday 14 September 2009
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."
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Greek debt crisis: Yanis Varoufakis's funniest (and most memorable) quotes
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response from Ellen DeGeneres
Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Man dies instantly after shooting firework from top of his head
Isis schoolgirl Amira Abase who fled London to join terrorists in Syria mocks victims of Tunisia massacre
Father faces deportation to Thailand after 27 years in Britain for two 'stupid crimes'
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...
£30 - 40k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product ...
£17000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company are looking for a S...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 1st / 2nd Line Technical Anal...