The whole world was shocked to learn about the sudden fire that engulfed the spires of Paris’ 850-year-old cathedral on April 15. Everything from the glass mosaics to the towering wooden spires were impacted by the blaze.
Some of these historic features will never be recovered; the use of glass mosaics have been featured in churches 300 years before the birth of Christ. The central spire was built over 200 years ago. It isn’t surprising that some of Paris’ wealthiest residents vowed to help rebuild one of the most iconic locations in France.
However, few knew about the tiniest residents living atop the tower: the bees.
It had always been a dream of Parisian resident Nicolas Géant to house his bees in the most scenic location in Paris. He claimed that he has always wanted to establish hives on the roof of the “most beautiful Church in the world.
In 2012, his vision came to life and he began working with the cathedral.
At the time of the fire, more than 180,000 bees were kept in the rising spires of the Notre Dame cathedral.
“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,” Géant explained.
It was only natural to establish beehives in the under-used spires of the church. The faltering bee population is vital in pollinating food and flowering plants. But the beekeeper was not allowed into the cathedral to check on his bees for quite some time after the fire began.
More than 60 firefighters still remained outside the cathedral on April 17 in order to monitor for any hotspots within and outside of the building.
The day after, however, Géant was able to offer good news: “Notre Dame’s bees are still alive!!”
The message was released in an Instagram post, celebrating the tenacity of his bees. This claim was solidified thanks to satellite imagery of the cathedral’s roof on Friday, April 19. Officials were able to witness countless bees bustling around their hives as though nothing had ever happened.
Luckily, the fire did not reach the three hives, which were located below the inferno blazing in the church’s main spire. Despite the intense amounts of smoke, bees don’t have lungs: this enabled them to simply sleep when the smoke began to infiltrate their hives. In fact, smokers are a vital piece of beekeeping equipment for this exact reason. Smoke is known to calm bees and put them to sleep.
“When bees sense fire, they gorge themselves on honey and stay to protect their queen, who doesn’t move,” explains Géant. “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).”
It’s great news that the thousands of bees will still help pollinate Paris and offer honey to the cathedral staff. Some historic artifacts were also recovered from the blaze. For the rest of the building, however, donations are flooding in to repair the damage dealt to the Paris skyline.