Les Abeilles – The Bees of Paris

Bees and beekeeping have a long and treasured history in Paris.

In the nineteenth century, many people left the French countryside to live in the city of Paris, and some of them brought their beloved bees along too. They soon discovered that their bees loved Paris as much as they did.

The bee tile floor of La Maison du Miel

A century ago, there were more than 1000 hives in the city of Paris. The bees almost disappeared in the decades after World War II, but a new generation of beekeepers has brought them back to the city. Today, it is estimated that  there are close to 500 hives in the City of Light.

One of the first of the modern beekeepers was Jean Paucton, a retired accessory designer for the Palais Garnier, the baroque Second Empire opera house best known in the U.S. as the home of the fictional “Phantom of the Opera.”

Jean Paucton and his bees

Twenty-seven years ago, Monsieur Paucton studied beekeeping at the city’s Jardin du Luxembourg, where a school has been teaching beekeeping to Parisians for more than 150 years.  He ordered his first hive, which was delivered to him sealed and full of bees at the opera house. He had intended to install them at his new country house, but it wasn’t ready.

The beekeeping school at the Jardin du Luxembourg

Another opera employee suggested he put the hive on the roof where the bees wouldn’t bother anybody.  (That employee had been raising trout in the opera’s water reservoir used for fighting fires. The opera sounds like a very interesting place!)

Monsieur Paucton lugged the hive up to the roof and opened it up. Two weeks later, he found it already full of honey.  He decided to leave it there and over the years added four more.

Because Paris is pesticide-free and gardens and tree-lined streets are plentiful, bees are happy there. They make more honey in the city than in the country, according to many urban apiculturists.

Flowers in the Jardin du Luxembourg

The Paris-based National Apiculture Association runs a seven-year-old program to encourage beekeeping in cities, the largest such project in the world. The program has been a big success, and today the famous rooftops of Paris provide homes for the world’s most sophisticated bees.

10 thoughts on “Les Abeilles – The Bees of Paris

  1. Sharon says:

    Oh, Paris… Paris is my home away from home. If I didn’t love gardening so much, I’d be living there right now. Strolling in the Jardin du Luxembourg… (Merci pour les photos!)

  2. […] Les Abeilles – The Bees of Paris (romancingthebee.com) category: Urban Beekeeping […]

  3. Reblogged this on Romancing the Bee and commented:

    This reblog was inspired by this comment…
    bebefreed says:
    November 29, 2013 at 9:13 am
    I read an article about a beekeeper who left his apiary in the country to take a job as and executive in a high rise in Paris. He was bereft to leave his bees behind. But since he was a big wig, he managed to keep a hive in his penthouse office, why high up in a high rise. He built a little tunnel that went from the hive to the window so they were actually housed indoors, yet they had a great distance to cover to find water, nectar and pollen. Yet, surprisingly, he reported that his high rise bees produced over three times more honey that his bees in the country. Consistent, prodigious yields! Go figure!

  4. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

    Great article!

  5. Loved learning about this. Thanks you.

  6. bebefreed says:

    Thanks for reblogging this. I live in the south of France where the mayor of my town has placed hives on the roof of the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). And where only two years ago, the municipalities weed-whipped the roadsides to dust every spring and all summer, they are now letting the wildflowers grow again for pollinator forage. The town round-abouts and road dividers are also planted with flowers known to attract bees and other pollinators, and insecticides and other chemical treatments are avoided. In France, the honey bee is declared an endangered species, and so the township can justify alterations to protect the species. However it is worth noting that these changes have actually saved the town a lot of money!

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