Bees in Paris One Up Their Rural Counterparts

Aug 19, 2009· 1 MIN READ

In an agricultural upset, Paris bees have outperformed their Provencal counterparts, just as the city’s human residents have all but abandoned their own industry for a month at the beach.

Paris comes to a screeching halt every August when the city relocates south, where pesticides and fertilizers are in fact killing countryside bees, according to an article in the Independent. Paris is largely free of the toxins, and the city heat (read: why residents have fled for the Mediterranean) encourages earlier breeding.

Tuileries, Luxembourg and other pocket-sized gardens around Paris are—sorry—abuzz with hundreds of thousands of bees. Boulevards lined with acacias, limes and chestnuts bear even more pollen.

Some 140,000 bees reside on the glass dome of the Grand Palais, a 1900 exhibition hall off the Champs-Elysées. Nicolas Géant, the beekeeper behind the Grand Palais, suspects the city’s bees could produce up to five times more than rural pollinators.

“In agricultural areas you can produce around 10-20 kilograms of honey per year per hive, while in cities you can get between 80-100 kilograms,” Géant said.

About 300 registered hives already produce an estimated several tons of honey each year.

New Yorkers, meanwhile, are still hiding their hives from authorities (and coveting the two-day beekeeping course Parisians can take in the City of Light). Beekeeping is currently illegal in NYC, even though the insects don’t pose any real threat to the public.

“Honeybees are happy in town,” said Grand Palais Director Sebastien de Gasquet. “They have everything they need.”

Rural farm lack the hedges, flowers and trees peppered around Paris’ cobbled streets, and even though Paris is polluted (exhaust fumes, for one), it doesn’t compare to the chemicals farmers use to ward off pests.

“There are practically no pesticides in the city,” said Jean Lacube, a beekeeper responsible for eight hives in the city’s seventh arrondissment.

“But beekeeping in a city is a luxury,” he said. “The future is not in cities.”

photo credit: G-rome’s Flickr photostream (creative commons)