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Opera Loving Bees

Opera Garnier Bees


Opera Garnier Bees


Opera Garnier Honey

Jean Paucton, a retired prop man for the Opera Garnier, studied beekeeping at the Jardin du Luxembourg where a school has been teaching Parisians about hives and honey for 150 years. Almost thirty years ago, he ordered his first hive, which was delivered to him sealed and full of bees at the opera house. He had intended to take it to his country house north of Paris.  When he was delayed, he needed somewhere to put the bees as they will only survive in a sealed hive for about 48 hours.

An opera house fireman who had been raising trout in the building's huge cistern (a firefighting reservoir and the inspiration for the underground lake in ''Phantom of the Opera'') suggested he put the hives on the roof where the bees wouldn’t bother anyone.

Mr. Paucton put the box out onto a seventh-floor roof at the back of the building and opened the hive. When he came back to pick it up two weeks later, he found it already full of honey. ''They make more honey here than they do in the countryside,'' Mr. Paucton says.

He decided to leave the hive there and over the years has added more. He now tends to five of the wooden box hives on a 30-foot-square roof overlooking the mansards, steeples and domes and of Paris.

He can collect more than 1,000 pounds of honey a year from his bees, about 75,000 of them, who fly as far afield as the Bois de Boulogne on the city's western edge about three kilometers away. ''They go to the chestnut trees in the Champs Élysée and the linden trees in the Palais Royal,'' says Mr. Paucton.

Mr. Paucton packages the honey in tiny jars at home, each with a photocopied label that reads, ''Honey harvested from the roof of the Opera of Paris - Jean Paucton.'' The a 12g jar of golden nectar sells at the opera house's gift shop and at the gourmet shop Fauchon for €14.50, or about $20 making it one of the most expensive honeys in the world.

Thanks to the concentration of fragrant flowering trees and shrubs, the honey has an intense floral flavour that does not appeal to everyone.

According to the National Beekeepers' Association, there are more than 300 known colonies in the French capital and you’ll find them on other iconic buildings such as Notre Dame de Paris, the Grand Palais, Musée d’Orsay, Les Invalides and the National Assembly in Paris.


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