Rooftop hives keep­ing Paris hon­ey­bees buzzing City pi­o­neer­ing unique plan to en­sure sur­vival

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

PARIS — To check the bee­hives he has set up on the roof of the sprawl­ing Mon­naie de Paris on the banks of the River Seine, Au­dric de Cam­peau slips a har­ness over his tan­col­ored trousers.

The bee­keeper then hooks his leg har­ness to a metal ca­ble an­chored to the roof ’s edge, run­ning the length of the en­tire struc­ture.

“It’s not dan­ger­ous, but my in­sur­ance com­pany in­sists on it,” he said.

El­e­gantly dressed in a tweed jacket, pink shirt and straw hat cus­tom­ized with a pro­tec­tive net, he steps care­fully be­tween the rafters to reach the three bee­hives he set on the flat side of the roof.

From there, the 34-year-old will head to the roof of the neigh­bor­ing In­sti­tut de France, an­other his­toric build­ing with a ma­jes­tic domed cen­ter.

He will don the same leg har­ness on the rooftop of the Boucheron fine jew­elry bou­tique over­look­ing the Place Ven­dome square, on the other side of the Seine, be­fore mak­ing his way to his three bee­hives.

In the dis­tance, the Eif­fel Tower rises far above the slanted Parisian rooftops.

“I’m lucky, my of­fice is in the sky,” he says, smil­ing, adding that he does have “to climb a lot of stairs”.

De Cam­peau is an ur­ban bee­keeper, and his bee­hives sit atop mon­u­ments and of­fice build­ings and on rooftop ter­races.

The French cap­i­tal boasts more than 700 bee­hives, ac­cord­ing to 2015 fig­ures, most lo­cated on rooftops such as those of the haute cui­sine Tour d’Ar­gent restau­rant, the Grand Palais and the Musee d’Or­say.

More and more com­pa­nies are also adding bee­hives to the tops of their of­fice build­ings.

Bee­hives have long sat on the roof of the Paris Opera, and the Lux­em­bourg Gar­dens has had bee­hives since 1856.

De Cam­peau sees his mis­sion as twofold: Take care of the health of his bees while also pro­duc­ing what he calls “liq­uid gold” for his com­pany, Le Miel de Paris (Paris Honey).

De­pend­ing on the agree­ment he has with build­ing own­ers, ei­ther he sells the honey or they use it. The 200ml bot­tles re­tail for $41.

At the Mon­naie de Paris, chef Guy Savoy uses de Cam­peau’s honey in his restau­rant desserts.

Ur­ban rooftops are one of the ways the city is fight­ing against the “wor­ry­ing” de­cline in the bee pop­u­la­tion, a trend France rec­og­nized early on de­spite its el­e­vated use of pes­ti­cides.

Pes­ti­cide use

The coun­try is one of Europe’s lead­ing users of pes­ti­cides.

The more pes­ti­cides are used, the more pests de­velop re­sis­tance to them, which leads to even more in­ten­sive use of pes­ti­cides.

Bees around the world — es­pe­cially in Europe and North Amer­ica — have been dec­i­mated in re­cent years by a mys­te­ri­ous blight called “colony col­lapse dis­or­der”, in which en­tire pop­u­la­tions dis­ap­pear or die out.

Re­search points an ac­cus­ing fin­ger at agri­cul­tural pes­ti­cides, viruses, fungi, par­a­sites, poor weather, mal­nu­tri­tion be­cause of fewer flow­ers — or some com­bi­na­tion of them all.

Ac­cord­ing to the EU eco­nomic and so­cial ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, “nearly half of wild bee species have dis­ap­peared in just 30 years”.

But more than just the sur­vival of the bees is at stake.

Sci­en­tists have cal­cu­lated that 1.4 bil­lion jobs, and three­quar­ters of crops, de­pend on pol­li­na­tors, mainly bees.

All told, there are some 20,000 bee species that fer­til­ize more than 90 per­cent of the world’s 107 ma­jor crops.

PA­TRICK KOVARIK / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Bee­keeper Au­dric de Cam­peau checks his hives on the roof of the Mon­naie de Paris in June.

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