Urban beekeeping

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KATY CLARK: While France may be going after reckless tourists, it is welcoming another kind of traveler, honey bees. It's been rough going for the bees in recent years, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder has been killing them off in mass in various parts of the world. It's still not clear what's causing CCD, though there are some suspected culprits including pesticides, parasites and a reduction of biodiversity. But bee colonies are doing well in some unexpected places like French cities. Genevieve Oger reports from Paris.

GENEVIEVE OGER: It's market day in this eastern Paris neighborhood. Like most Friday mornings, Remy Vanbremeersch is here selling his honey, pollen, and other bee-related products. The honey from this very neighborhood, called Miel de Place des Fetes is the most popular. It's sold out by mid-morning. There are an estimated 300 hives in the city of Paris. They're found in city parks, private gardens and the rooftops of public buildings. And contrary to what you might think, the bees are thriving here and in other cities across France. Beekeeper Remy Vanbremeersch opens the gate to an unused public park in the city's 20th district. This past spring, he placed six hives here with the blessing of city officials.

REMY VANBREMEERSCH: [With Translator] City Hall is very keen to bring more wildlife into the city. So when I submitted a plan to set up a few hives in different places, they said yes right away. City councilors are very supportive. For them it's an easy way to do something green in the city.

OGER: This year's honey has already been harvested, but Vanbremeersch checks on the bees regularly, to care for the hives and protect them from parasites. He keeps hives in three different Paris locations. And has plans to set up six more on a large boulevard just down the street. He also owns some colonies on a nature reserve south of the city.
REMY VANBREMEERSCH: [With Translator] In the four years I've kept hives in Paris, my smallest harvest was 90 pounds of honey per hive, and my best harvest was 170 pounds of honey per hive.

OGER: That's typically much more than what he produces from a hive in the countryside. He attributes this to warmer temperatures in the city and also greater biodiversity. Paris isn't known as a green city, but there are thousands of different species of plants and trees in the parks that bloom in succession. Whereas outside the city, single-crop farming dominates the landscape. Vanbremeersch adds that pesticide levels appear to be lower in the city as well. Back at the market, customers, like this man, keep coming back for Remy Vanbremeersch's distinctive honey.

MAN: I was originally quite surprised that there was Paris honey. But some friends gave me a pot of it and I found it really excellent. It's very, very perfumed. A very perfumed type of honey.

OGER: Urban beekeepers aren't suggesting that all hives should be moved into the city, but they say urban beekeeping is a great way to educate people about what's been happening to bees around the world and generate support for campaigns to protect them. For the World, this is Genevieve Oger in Paris.