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Paris rooftops abuzz with beekeeping

On storied rooftops and public gardens in the urban jungle of Paris, the bee business is thriving.

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Beekeeper Nicolas Geant takes care of bees on top of the Grand Palais museum in Paris. Urban beekeeping has caught on in the city.

Francois Mori/AP

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In the romantic city of lights, the bees are downright busy.

Common sense says it is better to keep hives of stinging insects in the countryside, away from city centers packed with people. Yet on storied rooftops and public gardens in the urban jungle of Paris, the bee business is thriving.

Bees are disappearing from fields across France and elsewhere in the world, victims of a slow decline in number because of loss of habitat compounded by a recent and mysterious catastrophe variously blamed on disease, parasites and pesticides.

But in the heart of the French capital, Nicolas Geant is preparing to sell off his honey. It comes from hives on the edges of the soaring glass roof of the Grand Palais exhibition hall, just off the Champs-Elysees.

"Paris has many balconies, parks and avenues full of trees and little flowers that attract many bees for pollination," says Mr. Geant, who has 25 years of experience under his belt.

The Grand Palais beehives went up in May. They also sit in the Luxembourg Gardens, on the gilded dome of the 19th Century Palais Garnier and the roof of the ultramodern Opera Bastille.

"In Paris, each beehive produces a minimum of 50 to 60 kilograms (110 to 130 pounds) of honey per harvest, and the death rate of the colonies is 3 to 5 percent," says Henri Clement, president of the National Union of French Beekeepers.

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