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Paris Honey: The Bees Knees

by Meredith Mullins on December 4, 2017

Bees in a beehive on honeycomb, part of discovering nature in Paris with urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Shaiith/iStock.)

Paris Honey: The Bees Knees
© Shaiith/iStock

Urban Beekeeping Amid the Monuments

A hint of red berries. Deep molasses notes. A whiff of lychee. A dash of wet earth. A long clove finish. Are we tasting a Burgundy, a Southern Rhône, or a Bordeaux?

Actually . . . none of the above. In fact, we are talking about another kind of liquid treasure. Honey. Pure and (not so) simple.

In a city such as Paris, where gardens are a tradition and where residents tend to make the best of vertical space, bees are all the buzz. Paris honey is in.

Audric de Campeau of Le Miel de Paris at Ecole Militaire in Paris, discovering nature through urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Le Miel de Paris.)

Hives atop the Paris École Militaire
Photo Courtesy of Le Miel de Paris

Paris would like to be the capital, not just of light and love, but of urban beekeeping.

The wide variety of flora, the frequent plantings in the city’s gardens (and private flower boxes), and the lack of pesticides allow bee colonies to thrive—a hopeful sign when bees in the countryside are declining, threatening the pollination that is necessary for agriculture.

Bee hives in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, a way of discovering nature with urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

The classic hives in the Luxembourg Gardens have been a part of the ecosystem since 1856.
© Meredith Mullins

Paris Past and Present Bee-Havior

Paris has a long history of beekeeping. The hives that are easily visible in the southwest corner of the Luxembourg Gardens were a part of a beekeeping project that began in 1856, followed by a beekeeping school that is still active today.

The more than 700 hives that now exist in Paris are usually somewhat hidden, to deter an errant bee swarm from attacking well-traveled tourist areas.

Bee hives on top of La Monnaie (the Paris Mint), discovering nature through urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Bees with a view—from the top of La Monnaie, the Paris Mint
© Meredith Mullins

However, you might be surprised to find that there are hives at several well-known Paris landmarks (mostly on rooftops).

  • Musée d’Orsay
  • La Monnaie de Paris (the Paris Mint)
  • Opéra Garnier and Opéra Bastille
  • Invalides (move over Napoléon)
  • Grand Palais
  • Assemblée Nationale (the National Assembly)
  • École Militaire (the Military School)
  • Institut de France
  • Le Bon Marche/Grand Épicerie store
  • Gare Austerlitz train station
  • High-rise buildings in the La Defense business area in west Paris
  • The headquarters of the French Communist Party (pourquoi pas?)
Audric de Campeau on the roof of La Monnaie, discovering nature via urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image courtesy of Le Miel de Paris.)

An “office” in the sky
Photo Courtesy of Le Miel de Paris

Even hotels and restaurants are jumping on the beewagon. The Tour d’Argent restaurant, the Mandarin-Oriental, and The Westin Hotel (on rue de Rivoli) all have hives that provide an exclusive supply of honey to their chefs.

There is a beekeeper union (UNAF: Union Nationale de l’Apiculture Française), beekeeper associations, and a multitude of private hives with beekeepers of varying levels of expertise. A hive owner has only to acquire his or her materials, register the hive with the veterinary authority, and make sure the hive is 25 meters from a school or hospital.

Three jars of Paris honey, from the Musée d'Orsay, the Tour d'Argent, and Opera Garnier, discovering nature via urban beekeeping and Paris honey. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Exclusive Paris honey: from the roofs of the Musée d’Orsay, the Tour d’Argent, and Opéra Garnier
© Meredith Mullins

A Taste of Honey (Paris Honey: Le Miel de Paris)

So, how does an expert beekeeper make a mark in this new world of honey lovers?

Enter Audric de Campeau.

There are a few well-known beekeepers in Paris, but Audric is one of the most original. He eschews the traditional white beekeeper suit in favor of a stylish boater with a customized black net (and no gloves!).

Audric de Campeau works with bees on the roof of Boucheron near Place Vendome in Paris, discovering nature via urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Le Miel de Paris.)

No traditional beekeeper suit for Audric de Campeau, as he works with his bees near Place Vendôme
Photo courtesy of Le Miel de Paris

And he is always with his trusty canine assistant Filou (although Filou understands the meaning of bee-ware and often keeps his distance from the hives, having been stung a few times).

A sign in French saying beware of bees, part of a trend of discovering nature via urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Le Miel de Paris.)

Attention Abeilles (Bee-ware of Bees)
Photo Courtesy Le Miel de Paris

Audric knew, even as a teenager, that he was a farmer at heart. Nature was in his blood. He started growing grapes in the Champagne region at his family’s country home, and soon became captivated by the magic and mystery of bee colonies.

His passion convinced his parents to allow his experiments in apiculture, even though his father was allergic to bees.

Once Audric (and his bees) had become proficient at honey production, both his parents gently urged him to start selling his product. They said (diplomatically) that they could not keep up the pace of eating a kilo of honey a day.

Close up of bee hive, discovering nature via urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Le Miel de Paris.)

A happy hive
Photo Courtesy of Le Miel de Paris

Audric went in search of places in the city for new hives. His love of history and architecture led him to the Paris landmarks. And his understanding of nature informed smart location choices near gardens like the Tuileries, which he calls “a fully-stocked fridge” of diverse nectars and pollens that bees need.

Audric de Campeau at the Institut de France, discovering nature via urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

An “Immortal” in his own right at the Institut de France
© Meredith Mullins

A Hive with a View

While most of the Paris bees have an incredible vista, the majority of bees’ working life is spent in the windowless hive. It’s the beekeeper who gets to have “an office in the sky,” as Audric likes to call it.

When Audric removes the roof of a hive to check on things, he is swept into another world. “It’s like opening a universe,” he says.

Audric de Campeau of Le Miel de Paris checking bee hives at Invalides, a way of discovering nature via urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Audric de Campeau checking the hives in a hidden corner of Invalides
© Meredith Mullins

You can tell by the way he senses what’s going on in the hive that he cares as much about the bees as he does about the honey they’re producing.

“It’s good for me,” he says. “You have to be calm and quiet when you’re working with a hive or the bees might kill you. It’s a good way to keep your stress level low.”

Audric de Campeau and Filou the dog at Invalides, discovering nature via urban beekeeping and the production of Paris honey. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

The Miel de Paris team—Audric and Filou (and the bees)
© Meredith Mullins

Oh, I See: Respecting Nature in the City

Discovering the hidden treasures of a city is a part of travel magic. The presence of bee hives in Paris—hundreds of little universes—as well as the resulting Paris honey, is one such improbable discovery. Urban beekeeping is here to stay.

However, it is the ability to cultivate these hidden treasures and respect their place in nature that makes them even more precious. Thank you, Audric, for showing us the way.

If video does not display, watch it here.

Visit Le Miel de Paris to find out more about Paris honey. Also Le Miel de Paris Facebook and Twitter.

Visit La Monnaie de Paris for more information about The Paris Mint (now open to the public).

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