From Boston Globe
PARIS - In the romantic City of Light, the bees are downright busy.
Common sense says it is better to keep hives of stinging insects in the countryside, away from city centers packed with people. But on storied rooftops and public gardens in the urban jungle of Paris, the bee business is thriving.
Bees are disappearing from fields across France and elsewhere in the world, victims of a slow decline in number because of loss of habitat compounded by a recent and mysterious catastrophe variously blamed on disease, parasites, and pesticides. The most recent science research points to a combination of interacting diseases for new collapses of bee colonies.
But in the heart of the French capital, Nicolas Geant is preparing to sell his honey. It comes from hives on the edges of the soaring glass roof of the Grand Palais exhibition hall, just off the Champs-Elysees.
“Paris has many balconies, parks, and avenues full of trees and little flowers that attract many bees for pollination,’’ said Geant, who has 25 years of experience under his belt.
The Grand Palais beehives went up in May. They Beehives are also in the Luxembourg Gardens, on the gilded dome of the 19th-century Palais Garnier, and the roof of the ultramodern Opera Bastille.
“In Paris, each beehive produces a minimum of 110 to 130 pounds of honey per harvest, and the death rate of the colonies is 3 to 5 percent,’’ said Henri Clement, president of the National Union of French Beekeepers.
“But in the countryside, one beehive only gives you about 20 to 40 pounds, and the death rate is 30 to 40 percent. It is a sign of alarm.’’
The Luxembourg Gardens’ hives produce more than half a ton of honey per harvest. It is sold to the public during the last weekend in September, and the income funds beekeeping classes and the facilities.
Alain Sandmeyer, 63, a volunteer instructor at the gardens, said trees and shrubbery have grown sparser in rural areas, attracting fewer bees. Also, rural bees are dying off from pesticides and fertilizers. In Paris, on the other hand, pesticides are forbidden in all parks and gardens.
Urban beekeeping is not just a Paris thing. Berlin, London, Tokyo, and Washington are among beekeeping cities. New York, however, lists bees as “venomous insects,’’ and beekeeping is punishable by a $2,000 fine.
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