Amazingly, when Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames in April some 200,000 bees living in three hives on the roof survived. Luckily for them their position on the top of the sacristy at the south side, around 30m below the main roof, meant that they remained untouched by the flames. When European bees sense danger they stay by their hive, protecting their Queen. Any smoke fumes would have intoxicated them, putting them to sleep temporarily.
With more and more urban environments becoming home to bee hives, it got us thinking about what other major cities in the world had bee hives on their landmarks?
Notre Dame is not the only place in the city of light to have bee hives on its roof. The Opera Garnier has been home to bees for the past 30 years and as part of an initiative to boost bee numbers across Paris, a number of iconic buildings have also had hives added to their roofs such as the Musee d’Orsay and the National Assembly.
Similar to Paris, Urban Bees was set up to install and maintain hives in the capital as a way of increasing the bee population. Bees can be found on the roof of St Paul’s Cathedral at a lofty 52 metres high, at the top of Tate Modern and Native Welsh Black Bees – known for their gentler ways - have enjoyed the luxury lifestyle on the roof of Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly for just over a decade. Their honey is harvested once a year in September from five beehives.
Several bee colonies have been at The White House since 2009 when Michelle Obama wanted a hive to pollinate her garden. The honey produced is used in dishes served at the residence and given as gifts.
The Nemo Science Museum has a green roof, 14 types of succulent and 25 different types of herbs. This natural environment is great for bees and the two hives of around 20,000 Buckfast bees are monitored by their beekeepers who are investigated the best way to use sensors to monitor the bee’s health.
At The Whitney Museum of American Art, bees from two hives enjoy gathering pollen from the nearby High Line where they encounter miniature daffodils and foxtail lilies. Yielding yearly anything from 20 to 200 pounds, nearly all of their supply is sold in the museum shop. Well-known hotel the Waldorf Astoria also has a mini bee farm on its 20th floor, home to 50,000 bees who pay for their stay in honey, which is used in the hotel’s dishes and pedicure treatments in the spa.
In the Ginza district of central Tokyo hives have been situated on the top of a multi-storey building since 2006. They collect their nectar from the Imperial Palace gardens and the honey produced is sold to local businesses.