God save the bees! In a surprising turn of events amidst the tragic news of the Notre-Dame fire, a silver lining has come in the form of bees.
Despite the roaring fire that destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old cathedral, the nearly 180,000 bees taking residence on the roof have been confirmed to be alive and well. The three hives were placed there in 2013 in a Parisian initiative to increase declining bee populations. The hives are located on a roof about 100 feet below the main roof and spire that experienced the most damage during the fire, allowing the bees to safe throughout the burning. According to the Associated Foreign Press, each hive produces “some 25 kilogrammes of honey each year” that is sold to Notre-Dame staff.
The bees were first sighted following the fire via drone images posted on Instagram on Monday by urban beekeeping company, Beeopic. The photo showed all three hives intact and in place despite beliefs of their destruction. The caption read, in French, “An ounce of hope! The photos taken by different drones show that the three hives are still in place… and obviously intact!”
More photos were posted of bees huddled on a gargoyle. “Our bees from the Cathedral Notre-Dame De Paris are still alive!!” Beeopic’s caption said. “Confirmation from the site’s officials!! Our lady’s bees are still alive!”
According to the Associated Press, European bees, unlike other bees, don’t abandon their hives when facing danger. Though the threat of heat was present, the smoke was not a factor since bees don’t have lungs, and thus, can’t die from smoke inhalation. In fact, smoke is a regular tool used in beekeeping to sedate the colony to gain access into the hive. So the Notre Dame bees remained throughout the fire and are still there today.
Notre-Dame beekeeper Nicolas Géant worried about the state of his bees, fearing the worst, but was delighted to learn of their safety. “When bees sense fire, they gorge themselves on honey and stay to protect their queen, who doesn’t move,” Géant said. “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]. If the wax that protects their hive melts, the bees simply die inside.”
There is no news yet on what steps, if any, will be taken to care for the bees, but after surviving the destructive fire of Notre-Dame, it is safe to say these bees know how to fend for themselves. This update comes as a glimmer of hope and life against the massive loss of such an incredibly historic structure.
“I was incredibly sad about Notre Dame because it’s such a beautiful building, and as a Catholic, it means a lot to me,” Géant told CNN. “But to hear there is life when it comes to the bees, that’s just wonderful. I was overjoyed.”
All images courtesy of Beeopic