Monday 3 February 2020

They survived fire and toxic fumes. So what happened next to Notre Dame's bees?

Hives that survived catastrophic Paris cathedral blaze are healthier than ever, says beekeeper

Kim Willsher in Paris

Fri 31 Jan 2020 06.00 GMTLast modified on Fri 31 Jan 2020 13.35 GMT

It is a crisp winter morning and the area around Notre Dame is sealed off as it has been since the fire last April that devastated the cathedral.

Those in the know, however, especially those with the keenest of eyes, might spot some small movement high up to the south of the stricken and blackened structure.

The bees of Notre Dame, whose escape from the inferno seemed almost miraculous, are thriving and conserving their energy ready to produce honey this summer, just as they have every year since they took up residence on the sacristy roof in 2013.

Nearly 10 months after the Paris cathedral was ravaged by fire, the three colonies are healthier than ever, according to their beekeeper.

Sibyle Moulin, who looks after the hives, spoke to the Guardian after she visited them for the first time in six months. Access to the site is restricted because the severely damaged 13th-century stone structure is still unstable and there is a risk from lead particles from the roof that was turned into dust in the blaze.

Moulin, who had to undergo a health and safety course to resume visits to the honey bees, said the 30-45,000 insects in the three hives are absolutely fine.

“There’s nothing wrong with them at all. The behaviour of the colonies is perfectly normal,” she said. “They’re not very active at this time of the year, but that’s how it should be. They seem fine.”

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