Paris is buzzing with sweet news following the tragic inferno at the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral.
According to reports, some 180,000 bees kept on the rooftop of a sacristry that adjoins the 850-year-old cathedral’s main roof, have miraculously survived the devastating fire that destroyed part of the historic building.
Nicolas Geant, the beekeeper of Notre-Dame’s rooftop bee colony, told CNN: “I got a call from Andre Finot, the spokesman for Notre Dame, who said there were bees flying in and out of the hives which means they are still alive!”
Speaking to the Associated Press, Geant, said, “I am so relieved.”
Sous le ciel bleu à Notre Dame! #beeopic #apicultureurbaine #notredamedeparis #bluesky
Before the confirmation of the bees’ survival, Geant was worried that the hives would perish in the blaze.
“At first I thought that the three hives had burned but I had no information,” he said, in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP).
As he feared the worst for the bees’ fate, Geant was surprised by the outpouring of support he received from strangers all around the world.
“Then I saw from satellite images that this was not the case and then the cathedral spokesman told me that they were going in and out of the hives,” he said.
A drone photo of Notre-Dame’s burned roof was posted on French beekeeping company Beeopic’s Instagram page, with the caption, “An ounce of hope!”
“Drone photos show that the 3 beehives are still in place and seem to be intact!” they added. “Smoke, heat, water… we’ll see if our courageous bees are still with us as soon as we have access to the location, which will likely take a long time.”
And on Friday, Geant received a call informing him that the stinging winged insects that produce honey had a miraculous escape!
Geant deemed it a “miracle” that the bees had made it through the Notre-Dame tragedy.
“Thank goodness the flames didn’t touch them,” Geant said. “It’s a miracle.”
In Geant’s opinion, the hives survived probably because they are situated about 30 meters (approx. 100 feet) below the cathedral’s main roof that caught fire.
“They weren’t in the middle of the fire, had they been they wouldn’t have survived,” Geant said. “The hives are made of wood so they would have gone up in flames.”
Also, as bees have no lungs, in the case of a fire, carbon dioxide in smoke sedates them. However, the insects can still die from excessive heat if the wax that encases their hive melts.
“I saw how big the flames were, so I immediately thought it was going to kill the bees. Even though they were 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) lower than the top roof, the wax in the hives melts at 63 degrees Celsius (145.4 Fahrenheit),” Geant explained to the Associated Press.
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Despite the danger, it’s the nature of these bees to protect their queen and not abandon their hives.
“When bees sense fire, they gorge themselves on honey and stay to protect their queen, who doesn’t move,” said Geant, who harvests an average of 75 kilograms (approx. 165 pounds) of honey from the three hives yearly and sells them to the staff at Notre-Dame.
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In case you are wondering why Geant keeps bees in Notre-Dame’s rooftop, it’s because this is a part of a Paris-wide initiative to boost the declining bee population.
Moreover, keeping beehives atop the roofs has become more and more common in Paris. As many as 700 hives are kept across France’s capital and on the rooftops of some of the most famous buildings, including the Opéra Garnier, Musée d’ Orsay, and Grand Palais, Atlas Obscura reported in August 2018.
Amidst grief over the beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral, this sweet piece of news has, beyond a doubt, put a smile on the faces of many Parisians.
“I was incredibly sad about Notre Dame because it’s such a beautiful building, and as a Catholic it means a lot to me,” Geant said. “But to hear there is life when it comes to the bees, that’s just wonderful.”