By Saskya Vandoorne and Gianluca Mezzofiore
The bees that live on the roof of Notre Dame are alive and buzzing, having survived the devastating fire that ripped through the cathedral on Monday, the beekeeper Nicolas Geant confirmed to CNN.
“I got a call from Andre Finot, the spokesman for Notre Dame, who said there were bees flying in and out of the hives which means they are still alive!” Geant said. “Right after the fire I looked at the drone pictures and saw the hives weren’t burnt but there was no way of knowing if the bees had survived. Now I know there’s activity it’s a huge relief!”
Notre Dame has housed three beehives on the first floor on a roof over the sacristy, just beneath the rose window, since 2013. Each hive has about 60,000 bees.
Geant said the hives were not touched by the blaze because they are located about 30 meters below the main roof where the fire spread.
“They weren’t in the middle of the fire, had they been they wouldn’t have survived,” Geant said. “The hives are made of wood so they would have gone up in flames.”
“Wax melts at 63 degrees, if the hive had reached that temperature the wax would have melted and glued the bees together, they would have all perished.”
While it is likely that the hives were filled with smoke, that doesn’t impact them like it would with humans, Geant explained.
“Bees don’t have lungs like us,” he said. “And secondly, for centuries to work with the bees we have used bee smokers.”
A bee smoker is a box with bellows which creates a white, thick cold smoke in the hives, prompting the bees to calmly gorge on the honey while beekeepers do their work, Geant said.
Geant said he wouldn’t be able tell whether all of the bees are alive until he was able to inspect the site, but he’s confident because the hives didn’t burn, and because bees have been spotted flying in and out.
“I was incredibly sad about Notre Dame because it’s such a beautiful building, and as a catholic it means a lot to me. But to hear there is life when it comes to the bees, that’s just wonderful. I was overjoyed,” he added.
“Thank goodness the flames didn’t touch them. It’s a miracle!”