Sweeter than honey: Paris bees upstage country cousins

Beekeeper Audric de Campeau walks on the rooftop of the Monnaie de Paris in Paris, France. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - Paris, the tourist-thronged city of love and fine cuisine. And now honey.

Above the traffic-clogged streets, siren wails and the banks of a not-so-pristine river that threads it, France's capital is increasingly popular with honey bees, and keepers say they are faring better than their rural cousins.

Pesticide use in agriculture has seen bee populations decline sharply in rural areas in France and other countries including Britain, according to environmentalists.

Paris' urban beekeepers claim their honey is purer as a result of a pesticide ban in the city.

"There are no traces of pollutants," says Audric de Campeau, a beekeeper whose rooftop bee farm offers breathtaking views of the Paris skyline.

Choice sites for the bees include the Musee art museum and the Hotel des Invalides military museum located a short beeflight away.

City officials estimates there are more than 1,000 hives on Paris's rooftops, up significantly from 700 in 2016. That is no mystery, says de Campeau, who installed his first hives in 2009.

In 2017, the use of all chemical pesticides was banned in Paris gardens and parks, where the plants from Mexican orange blossom to thyme and rosemary flourish.

De Campeau harvests between 45 to 60 kg of honey per hive a year that is then sold in selected shops for 15 and 25 euros (S$24 to $40) a pot, or used by Michelin-starred chefs such as Thierry Marx and Guy Savoy in their restaurants.

"If you do a hemolymph test, a blood test, you'll find some traces of hydrocarbons and heavy metals but the honey is perfectly pure, more so than in some places in the countryside," de Campeau said. "That's what's crazy."

Pesticides, a reduction in biodiversity in farming areas and attacks by giant Asian hornets are blamed for a ten-fold increase in bee mortality in the last twenty years.

For one of France's triple Michelin-starred chefs, Guy Savoy, Paris rooftop honey has the kudos of coming from "next-door".

"The dream of any chef is to have their products at arm's-length, or in this case at finger's length. It's incredible to be in the heart of Paris and to have hives on the roof.

"That's what made me realise that we have so many flowers in Paris. And that's why we have a honey of exceptional quality with a beautiful complexity."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.