An urban beekeeper.
While their country cousins’ populations collapse, bees in Paris are thriving as having a rooftop hive becomes de rigueur for hotels and restaurants seeking an in-house source of home-grown artisanal honey. According to the BBC, the urban bees are healthier and more productive than ones in rural France and they seem to like the City of Light for the same reason many people do: lots of good food.
“City people like flowers. We have parks, we have balconies, we have roadside verges, we have gardens — and we are planting them all year round with lots of different species to ensure year-round colour,” Parisian beekeeper Simonpierre Delorme told the BBC. “In the countryside, by contrast, these days there is often just one crop dominating an entire area. When that has finished blossoming, there is no more nectar for the local bees.”
More Honey, Lower Death Rates
Thanks to the veritable buffet of eating options — think of it as an apiarian raw bar or cheese platter — as well as Paris’ 10 years as a pesticide-free zone, the bees in the city’s 400 and counting hives produce an average of 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of honey each year, and up to 80 kilograms if things go well. In the country, 30 kilograms is considered a good annual yield. According to the National Union of French Beekeepers, they also have a death rate of just 3 to 5 percent, compared to an alarming 30 to 40 percent in rural areas.
No wonder the Grand Palais, the Westin Hotel, and the famous Tour d’Argent restaurant have all followed in the footsteps of the Paris Opera, one of the first buildings to reinstate the urban apiary tradition, some 15 years ago.
Declining Rural Biodiversity
Unfortunately, though, the success of bees in the city also serves to further highlight their struggles in the countryside, where declining rural biodiversity has made it hard out there for a pollen eater.
“We did an analysis of the honey we made here in Paris and discovered that it contained more than 250 different pollens. In the countryside there can be as few as 15 or 20 pollens,” Olivier Darne, an artist and urban beekeeper who create bee-related art installations to raise awareness about the issue. “It is an unwelcome paradox that city bees do better than country bees. I wish it was not the case. But if you exhaust your resources, you end up with nothing – and this is what the bees are telling us.”