I was chomping down my breakfast cereal and reading a Newsweek article by Tracy McNicoll called Pollen Nation about the honeybees of Paris.
Normally, I'm not obsessed with honeybees or Paris, but this article got my attention. It talked about a man named Olivier Darné, who puts beehives around Paris.
He has put hives on roofs and even sidewalks throughout these quarters to collect what he calls Miel Béton—Concrete Honey. Its varieties—the butter-colored spring blend; the darker, more intense summer crop; and the delicate, almost syrupy early-fall honey—are all as different as they are delicious. But Darné isn't interested just in something sweet. He is really after "pollen-gathering anecdotes," a sort of map of the city pieced together from the feet of bees. Armed with the urban portrait his little bees have begun to plot out, Darné wants to create a honey taste map with beekeepers in Europe to chart the "geopolitical tectonics of honeys."
The geopolitical tectonics of honeys? Pollen-gathering anecdotes? Yeah, I'm hooked.
According to the Newsweek article, pollen from palm trees, baobab trees, the African gazania flower and over 250 other far flung pollen sources have been found in Darné's honey. Normally, a honeybee travels in a radius around its hive of about 40 city blocks. The mystery is how those pollens ended up in Paris. Quite a few researchers worldwide are currently trying to answer that question.
According to an article at Picture Tank, the bees love Paris because it is pesticide free. And because the city of Paris has a program to encourage urban hives.
Bees are thriving in cities because flowers and plants are changed constantly and there aren't pesticides. The success of a three-year-old French program to encourage beekeeping in cities, the largest such project in the world, is sparking hope of a revival among their country cousins.
At World Hum, a travel blog, we see in Bee Colonies Thrive in Paris. Really, That’s a Good Thing.
A French program to promote beekeeping in cities has yielded at least 300 bee colonies in Paris, some in the unlikeliest of places—like the roofs of hotels and the Paris Opera House.
While the program exists to foster awareness of pollination’s importance to global agriculture, visitors to the city will also reap the benefits: The honey is sold in gift shops and served for breakfast at local hotels.
Beehives in Paris by Claude Covo-Farchi
My online friend Claude blogs at Blogging in Paris and Photoblogging in Paris. She has thousands of photos of Paris in her Flickr stream. Where better to look for photos of bees in Paris? Sure enough, she has bees and beehives from all over Paris in her photostream.
The bees and the honey they produce are actually becoming a tourist attraction. The New York Times wrote about the honey served in the Eiffel Park Hotel in French bees find a haven in Paris. Wanted in Paris talks about the beehive on the roof of the Grand Palais on Paris’ Champs Elysée and the resulting ‘Grand Palais’ honey. Paris Insider wants to help you find the best shops for honey, such as one they feature owned by Jean-Jacques Schakmundes called Les Abeilles, a "bee boutique." The Culinary Travel section of About.com also mentions Les Abeilles as a great place to shop in Paris.
Parisians love the bees, too. Colleen's Paris says,
Considering conditions, bees are better off in the city for at least two reasons than on the country side. The city weather is more mild and has a longer flowering season due to so many ornamental varieties that flower throughout the year. The city has so little green space in comparison to the countryside that there is less use of fertilizer and insecticides.
. . .
In our window gardens in the 11th arrondissement, we have geraniums, mint, flowering wild flowers, lavender, wild strawberries, eggplant, hazelnuts, blackberries, ivy, wine, chives and bay leaf. Can you imagine the taste of that honey!
The best and most exciting possibility is that our gardens could be contributing to potential beehives of 40,000 bees. That many bees could furnish between 50 and 80 kg of honey a year compared to 30 kg in the country side.
Additional bee resources:
Fabulous Lorraine spends Sunday with the bees
Midwest Green writes about bees and the green lifestyle. She also started a Beekeepers Group on BlogHer for those who want to talk about beekeeping.
The Honey Gatherers has more great photos of bees and honey gathering in Paris.