As many as 200,000 bees living on Notre Dame’s roof survived the blaze that engulfed the heritage landmark, their beekeeper has revealed.
Nicolas Géant, who has kept the three hives on top of a sacristy that adjoins the cathedral since 2013, said the insects were still going in and out of their homes this morning.
An inferno raged through the cathedral in central Paris for more than 12 hours on Monday, destroying its spire and almost all of its ornate centuries-old roof.
The three beehives on the rooftop of Notre Dame in Paris (circled) appeared to be intact after the blaze ripped through the heritage landmark and it has now been confirmed their 200,000 inhabitants are still alive
Beekeeper Nicolas Géant(pictured) said he was hopeful that the bees had survived but was not allowed to check on them because of the fragility of the remaining structure of Notre Dame
Beekeeper Géant was thrilled to announce that the bees were ‘alive’.
‘Until this morning, I had had no news,’ he said.
‘At first I thought that the three hives had burned but I had no information after Monday’s fire.’
‘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.’
Geant said he had been taken aback by calls of support from all corners of the world.
He said that this kind of bee, a variety bred by Benedictine monk Brother Adam around a hundred years ago, does not abandon its hive, instead gorging on honey and refusing to abandon the queen bee.
Each hive at Notre-Dame on average produces some 25 kilogrammes of honey each year which is sold to Notre-Dame staff.
It has become increasingly customary in the French capital for bee hives to be introduced at seemingly unlikely locations, including also at the Paris Opera.
Flames and smoke rise from the blaze at Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris on Monday evening. The cathedral lost its iconic spire and around two-thirds of its roof in the devastating disaster
Nicolas Géant, 51, harvests honey for the first time from a beehive set up on the roof of the Grand Palais in Paris
Earlier Géant had expressed hope that the bees were still alive after spotting their hives, which appeared to be undamaged, in aerial images.
‘If you look at the photos from the sky, you see that everything is burnt, there are holes in the roof, but you can still see the three beehives,’ Géant told NBC News.
He had been in limbo since Monday, unable to check on his colonies because firefighters say there is still a risk that the fragile structure could entirely collapse.
Sixty of them are still keeping a vigil at the world famous landmark to ensure no further fire erupts and monitoring ‘hot spots’ that might cause further damage.
‘The policemen and firemen won’t let me go up there,’ Géant said. ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
Géant (pictured) keeps three hives on the roof of Notre Dame, each housing some 60,000 bees
The beehives were installed on Notre Dame’s roof six years ago as part of a city-wide biodiversity project that placed colonies across Paris.
Beeopic, the company that maintains the hives, wrote on its Instagram page that the aerial photographs had provided an ‘ounce of hope’ for the insects.
‘The pictures taken by different drones show that the 3 hives are still in place… and obviously intact!,’ yesterday’s post reads.
‘As for the occupants, the mystery remains intact. Smoke, heat, water… we will see if our brave bees are still with us as soon as we have access to the site, which may take a lot of time.’
The 51-year-old, who keeps the insects throughout France and in California, said it was his dream come true to be able to practice his passion on top of ‘the most beautiful church in the world’.
‘There is a historic relationship between bees and the church, for a long time they used the wax from the bees to make the candles,’ he told NBC.
THE BEEHIVES OF PARIS
A Parisian beekeeper tends to their hive
Many major landmarks in the French capital keep the little honey-makers on their roofs, as they are passionate about reversing the decline in the bee population.
The insects find it easy to live in the city, and even produce more honey than their rural neighbours, due to the lack of pesticides and abundance of flowers.
The National Union of French beekeepers said that while an urban hive can produce 110 to 130 pounds of honey in a season, a rural hive would produce just 20 to 40 pounds.
Famed for housing paintings by Vincent Van Gough, Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne, among others, the museum also has some buzzing inhabitants on its roof.
The small collection of hives are looked after by beekeeper Audric de Campeau.
Beekeeper Nicolas Geant with a hive on the roof of the Grand Palais
The glass-roofed building, just off the Champs-Elysees, is home to several beehives.
They were added in May 2009 as more and more hives were added to other major Parisian landmarks.
It also hosts many art exhibitions every year.
These hives are also looked after by Nicolas Geant, who also cares for those on top of Notre Dame.
He announced today that the colonies that live on top of the cathedral had survived the blaze. They have been seen flying in and out of their homes.
Beehives have been installed on the Opera Bastille and Palais Garnier, which make up the Paris opera.
As many as five new hives were added to Opera Bastille’s roof collection in 2016, each containing 50,000 bees.
This added to the five hives that are on Palais Garnier’s roof.
The colonies produce honey that is sold in the Paris Opera’s gift shops.
Beehives pictured on top of the Grand Palais in Paris with a view to the Eiffel tower.