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Paris: Rooftop hives on the rise amid efforts to preserve honeybee population

The trend for adding hives to Paris rooftops is growing, with many companies in the French capital choosing to do their bit in the fight against the 'worrying' decline in the bee population.

Paris: Rooftop hives on the rise amid efforts to preserve honeybee population
A rooftop hive in Paris. Photo: AFP
To check the beehives he has set up on the roof of the sprawling Monnaie de Paris on the banks of the River Seine, Audric de Campeau slips on a harness over tan-coloured trousers.
  
The beekeeper then hooks his leg harness to a metal cable anchored to the roof's edge, running the length of the entire structure.
   
“It's not dangerous, but my insurance insists on it,” he says.
   
Elegantly dressed in a tweed jacket, pink shirt and straw hat customised with a protective net, he steps carefully between the rafters to reach the three beehives he set on the flat side of the roof.
   
From there, the 34-year-old will head to the roof of the neighbouring Institut de France, another historic building with a majestic domed centre.
   
He will don the same leg harness on the rooftop of the Boucheron fine jewelry boutique overlooking the Place Vendome square, on the other side of the Seine, before making his way to his three beehives.
   
In the distance, the Eiffel Tower rises far above the slanted Parisian rooftops.
   
“I'm lucky, my office is in the sky,” he says, smiling, adding that he does have “to climb a lot of stairs”.
   
De Campeau is an urban beekeeper, and his beehives sit atop monuments and office buildings and on rooftop terraces.
   
The French capital boasts more than 700 beehives, according to 2015 figures, most located on rooftops such as those of the haute cuisine Tour d'Argent restaurant, the Grand Palais and the Musee d'Orsay.
   
More and more companies, including AFP, are also adding beehives to the tops of their office buildings.
   
Beehives have long sat on the roof of the Paris Opera, and the Luxembourg Gardens has had beehives since 1856.
 
'Worrying' bee decline
 
Urban rooftops are one of the ways the city is fighting against the “worrying” decline in the bee population, a trend France recognised early on despite its elevated use of pesticides.
 
The country is one of Europe's leading users of pesticides.
   
The more pesticides are used, the more pests develop resistance to them, which leads to even more intensive use of pesticides.
   
Bees around the world — especially in Europe and North America — have been decimated in recent years by a mysterious blight called “colony collapse disorder”, in which entire populations disappear or die out.
   
Research has pointed an accusing finger at agricultural pesticides, viruses, fungi, parasites, poor weather, malnutrition because of fewer flowers — or some combination of the above.
 
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AFP   
 
According to the EU economic and social advisory committee (EESC), “nearly half of wild bee species have disappeared in just 30 years”.
   
But more than just the survival of the bees is at stake.
   
Scientists have calculated that 1.4 billion jobs, and three-quarters of crops, depend on pollinators, mainly bees.
   
All told, there are some 20,000 bee species that fertilise more than 90 percent of the world's 107 major crops.
   
At the same time, the United Nations estimates that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators — mostly bees and butterflies — are at risk of extinction.
   
In an effort to defend the bee, the northern French city of Lille began providing pesticide-free environments in 2007.
   
The southern city of Montpellier soon followed by installing beehives on the roofs of many high schools.
   
Though experts say it may not solve the problem, Lille's environmental services said 80 species of wild bees that had disappeared from the area have returned since beginning the programme.
 
'Liquid gold' 
 
De Campeau sees his mission as two-fold: take care of the health of his bees while also producing what he calls “liquid gold” for his company, “Le Miel de Paris” (Paris Honey).
   
Depending on the agreement he has with building owners, either he sells the honey or they use it. At the Monnaie de Paris, chef Guy Savoy uses de Campeau's honey in his restaurant desserts.
   
He sells his homemade honey in 200ml bottles for 34.90 euros ($41).
   
As well as honey, de Campeau also makes mead — an ancient alcoholic honey-based drink — in oak barrels once used for wine or sherry that are stored in a secret cellar 30 metres (100 feet) underground.
  
For a man who spent his youth illegally exploring the underground Catacombs of Paris, de Campeau feels right at home.
   
“Stable temperature, high humidity, perfect to prevent evaporation, and zero vibration,” de Campeau said, adding that these factors are essential for raising a blend “worthy of a great vintage”.

READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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