Paris’ Hidden Rooftop Beehives
You may be surprised to find out that many of the famous buildings you visit in Paris have beehives hidden on their rooftops. Beehives are on rooftops all over Paris, with some passionate Parisians even installing hives in their offices and on apartment balconies. The French are passionate about greening their city, maintaining animal and insect diversity and teaching their children ecology. Anne Hidalgo, the French mayor of Paris announced last year (2015) that as part of the city’s Smart City Policy many of its inner city bus shelters will have better displays consuming less energy, have solar panels installed and have flowers and vegetation planted on the roof. I love the idea that these shelters will reduce energy consumption whilst encouraging insect diversity and adding beauty to a city environment.
Whilst travelling over France I have noticed that many parks, even small local parks in rural areas have insect houses amongst the flower beds or nature plantings. Some parks will even have signs describing the different insects that might be attracted to the house and the importance of preserving this insect diversity.
Ready made insect houses with different sections for specific insects can be purchased at hardware stores or flower nurseries for placing in your garden. I have even found children’s insect house building kits and insect games in toy stores in France. Some have been so sweet I have been tempted to purchase them for myself!
Did you know Paris is fast becoming the centre of apiculture with beehives around the city being cited as the salvaltion of the bee, together with growing public awareness of the crisis in rural bee-keeping caused by the collapse in bee numbers. City bees are apparently immune to the health problems facing their country cousins and they are also far more productive.
There are around 400 hives in the city on rooftops including famous buildings and hotels, offices, balconies and public parks. Many famous restaurants have installed hives on their rooftops for their own use, for example, the Tour d’Argent restaurant opposite the Notre Dame Cathedral and The Westin hotel on Rue de Rivoli. By having their own hives the restaurants always have fresh honey and it is on trend to have this added to their menu.
Because apiculture or the ‘art of bee keeping’ is so popular in the city of Paris you can even take beekeeping classes with the Société Centrale d’Apiculture (Central Society of Beekeepers), founded in 1856.
It is suggested that the main food source for Parisian bees is the tree flowers: “In Paris, the honey is from flowers of trees. If there are blooms in flowerbeds here in the parks, that’s attractive to them, but in terms of quantity, the amount’s not much” says Frédéic Eggers de Villepin, beekeeper in George Brassens Park, Paris.
Simonpierre Delorme, beekeeper beside the railway-line in the 14th arrondissement suggests the reason bees thrive in Paris is: “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. 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.” Bees may also be thriving in Paris because of the decision 1o years ago to make the French capital a pesticide-free zone. Early breeding also seems to be helped by the warm city environment.
So where are those hidden beehives and who looks after them? Keep reading as I reveal where they are located and the names of their keepers:
Parc George Brassens: Frédéic Eggers de Villepin is the beekeeper who looks after the Parc’s 20 beehives, yes that’s right, 20 beehives.
Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris: Nicolas Géant is the beekeeper who tends the beehives on the roof of the bishop’s palace of the cathedral Notre Dame of Paris. What a fabulous view his ‘office’ has!
Grand Palais: Nicolas Géant has more hives here on the amazing Grand Palais.
Luxembourg Garden: The Luxembourg Garden hives are grouped together in the southwest corner of the park and the beekeeper organization at the École Rucher looks after these bees. The apiary of the Société Centrale d’Apiculture sure is a busy place while the introductory courses in beekeeping are happening. Classes begin inside in February and then when the weather warms up the classes continue outside in the garden. In September a honey festival is held where beekeepers and students sell their honey and celebrate the completion of their study. The craze for beekeeping is now big in Paris and the provinces with amateur beekeepers buying more hives than ever before. Have you ever thought of taking a beekeeping course? I admit I haven’t but I do love honey.
Mayor’s Office of Saint-Denis: Olivier Darné, artist and urban beekeeper set up his first hives in 2000 on the roof of the Mayor’s Office of Saint-Denis, at the foot of the basilica. His apiary now counts 20 hives.
Vuitton: Deluxe fashion brand Louis Vuitton has hives on the terrace of their headquarters near the Pont Neuf bridge. The unveiling of the hives on 6 May 2009 was even attended by company CEO, Yves Carcelle. This I would love to see, but honestly I don’t expect I ever will… pity!
Opera Garnier: Jean Paucton, 76 years old, set up his hives about twenty years ago on the roof of the Opera just by chance. A prop man at the opera, he took courses in beekeeping at the Société Centrale for apiculture in the Luxembourg gardens. Sharing his time between Paris and the Creuse, he didn’t know what to do with a hive given to him by a friend. It was the Opera fireman, who himself bred fish in the underground pond beneath the opera, who gave him the idea of setting up the hive and bees on the roof of the Garnier. I think Jean Paucton has the most amazing interests. Imagine being a prop man at this famous Parisian institute of the arts and spending time on the roof with your bees. What a view!!
Institut National des Jeunes Sourds (National Institute for Young Deaf People): has four hives installed in its big garden on the Boulevard Saint Michel. The purpose of these hives is to help the children learn and be expanded through the fascinating world of bees.
Church of the Étoile: Louis Pernot, the pastor of the reformed Church of the Étoile has set up three hives on the roof of his neo-baroque building on the Avenue de la Grande Armée.
Lycée Jean-Jaurès (19th arrondissement): has hives on its roof attended by Christophe Morlon, a sculpture teacher. This school is the regional school for adapted teaching which teaches students with difficulties.
Audric de Campeau takes his faithful friend Filou, his beagle, when doing the rounds of his rooftop beehives. His instagram galley is truely fabulous and his rooftop honey is widely available in stores and directly at le Miel de Paris.
So there you have it, some of the hidden beehives of Paris and the almost secret lives of Paris’ apiarists (beekeepers). Did you know all this activity was happening above the unsuspecting bustling crowds of Parisian locals and tourists? Beehives were also located on walls of castle ramparts, such as Angers Castle, and within chateau gardens for the production of honey which was used both as food and for medicinial purposes. Some castles and châteaux still have beehives today, both for their historical value and practical use.
So where can you buy Paris honey? La Maison du Miel, Fauchon, the La Grande Epicerie de Paris and Monoprix carry a selection as do many outdoor neighborhood markets. Le Miel de Paris, Paris’s amazing rooftop honey by Confidences d’Abeilles are passionate about apiculture and create genuine french honey, cosmetics and products in the Rhone-Alpes.
Have you read Josephine Moon’s book The Beekeeper’s Secret? Here is an except to intice you…
Maria Lindsey has secrets to hide. Living on top of a secluded mountain is a good way to hide from the world… until her past begins to track her down.
Maria Lindsey is content. She spends her solitary days tending her bees and creating delicious honey products to fund orphaned children. A former nun, her life at Honeybee Haven has long been shaped by her self-imposed penance for terrible past events. But the arrival of two letters heralds the shattering of Maria’s peaceful existence.
So I hope you enjoyed reading about Paris’ Hidden Beehives, their interesting keepers and the book The Beekeeper’s Secret, which is available above on Amazon. Please share this article so that others can read it also… thanks so much. This article first appeared on a french collection and was linked with #IBOT hosted by Kylie Purtell; #AllAboutFrance hosted by Phoebe Thomas; #TheWeeklyPostcard hosted by Travel Notes and Beyond and #wkendtravelinspiration hosted by Contented Traveller. Make sure you check out these inspiring travel blogs and my affiliate disclosure statement below.
See you next time… Annette xx