August 14, 2009

Parisian Bees Make Their Homes In The City

Experts say that Parisian bees are thriving in urban areas of the city as opposed to the countryside, AFP reported.

Apparently, the bees are aware that suburban areas offer all sorts of flowers that are only a short flight away, and the city offers less risk of succumbing to pesticides.

The penthouse hives atop some of the city's best and historically prestigious monuments, such as the steel and glass domed Grand Palais exhibition hall by the banks of the Seine, have become the new natural habitat for Parisian bees.

Grand Palais director Sebastien de Gasquet said honeybees are happy in town because they have everything they need.

He said that with the Grand Palais' flowerbeds and the Tuileries gardens being only a short distance away, collecting pollen and nectar is no problem for them.

Last May, two beehives were posted on the edge of the building's huge glass dome, and three or four extra hives will soon be added to produce up to half a ton of honey a year.

Nicolas Geant, the beekeeper behind the Grand Palais scheme, said city bees nowadays produce four to five times more honey than their country cousins.

Geant said that in agricultural areas they could produce around 20 to 50 pounds of honey per year per hive while in cities they can get between 175 and 220 pounds.

"In the city there are a myriad of small flowers in parks and on balconies, as well as a wide variety of trees along streets and in public gardens -- acacia, lime and chestnut trees -- that are nectar to the bees," he said.

But in rural areas close to farms, there are less and less hedges, trees and flowers.

Geant even noted that although Paris is polluted with car exhaust, it still bears no comparison with agricultural areas where pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers kill massive numbers of bees.

High mortality rates near corn, sunflower and rapeseed fields have been reported, while bee deaths across Europe have been 30 to 35 percent higher than average since the 1980s due to a number of factors, including the use pf pesticides, according to France's Union of Apiarists (UNAF).

Jean Lacube, the beekeeper in charge of eight hives at another Paris building in the city's chic 7th district, said there are practically no pesticides in the city.

He explained that city bees also thrive in a town's more temperate climate and are safe from attacks by the deadly Asian hornet that has decimated bees in the southwest part of France in the last years.

Lacube said there are some 300 beehives in Paris.

"But beekeeping in a city is a luxury and should be in the countryside, the future is not in the cities," Lacube said.