Bees thrive in Paris – more biodiversity, fewer pesticides

Hives on the rooftop of the Grand Palais in Paris

Hives on the rooftop of the Grand Palais in Paris

Beekeeping in the city? Surprisingly, bees in Paris, and other big cities, produce two to three times more honey than their country brethren. Higher average temperatures in the city lead to an earlier flowering, which entices the worker bees to emerge earlier. City bees also produce honey with better flavour because they have access to a much greater variety of trees and flowers

In 1983 Jean Paucton installed the first hives on the rooftop of the Paris Opera, the Palais Garnier. The Palais Garnier honey, known as “Miel de Béton“, or Concrete honey, has notes of lemon and mint and can be bought at luxury stores such as Fauchon in Paris, or online. A total of some 300 hives are thought to exist in Paris.

Jean Pauctons Miel de Béton from the rooftop of the Paris Opera

Jean Paucton's "Miel de Béton" from the rooftop of the Paris Opera

The latest piece of prime Parisian real estate to offer space to beekeepers is the Grand Palais museum, which has installed its first two hives since May and plans to add three more early in 2010.

A bumper harvest of 50 kilos of honey took place on September 2, and the honey will be available for sale in autumn 2010. Nicholas Géant, beekepper of the two hives at the Grand Palais, was quoted in Le Monde recently as saying that “in the countryside, the mortality rate (for bees) is 30 to 50 percent” due to the high levels of pesticides present.

I haven’t tasted the Palais Garnier honey, but I do confess to finding it difficult to find a honey in France that tastes just right. Childhood memories of  taste-testing honey all over New Zealand seem to have left their mark and all other honeys don’t seem to measure up. Many of those honeys came from New Zealand’s unique wild flora, and have names like Tawari, Manuka, Towai and Kamahi.

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4 responses to “Bees thrive in Paris – more biodiversity, fewer pesticides

  1. miel de beton — i can’t tell you how much this touches me.

  2. I know I’m really late to comment on this, but I found it fascinating. When I was in Germany last September a beekeeper told me that bee colonies are in far healthier shape in Germany than in France due to the absence of genetically-modified crops in Germany. I realize that I never submitted this idea to the scrutiny of research. Is there something to this?

    • Hi Alex,
      Definitely. Although my understanding was that pesticides are possibly a bigger factor – and also there is only one type of GM crop authorized in France, a type of maize called MON 810, and it is mostly concentrated in one region, the southwest, but bees having been dying all over the country. Thanks for commenting. Denise

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