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Town bees do better than country bees

Bees reared in the town are healthier and produce more honey than their counterparts in the country, says a France study.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2006 20:53 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Bees reared in the town are healthier and produce more honey than their counterparts in the country, according to the surprise findings of a study by the Union of French Apiarists (UNAF) which was released Tuesday.

A higher ambient temperature and diverse urban plant-life mean that city bees enjoy a longer period of pollenation from a wider variety of flowers, while escaping the pesticides and other crop treatments that have badly hit honey production in rural areas.

Car fumes do not seem to affect them.

Hives placed on the roof of a theatre in the western city of Nantes easily outproduced country hives 30 kilometres (20 miles) away, while the mortality rate among the city bees was six percent compared to 33 percent for their rural cousins, UNAF reported.

"Bees are equipped with filters that help them cope with urban pollution, but they are helpless against neurotoxins," said Loic Leray, who has shifted most of his honey production to a public park in Nantes.

"In 25 years nothing has changed in the behaviour of my urban bees. They produce between 25 and 35 kilograms (55 and 77 pounds) of honey per hive and their winter death-rate is low," he said.

"But in the country, the honey steadily dried up as the hives were depopulated. And then I would find great carpets of sick bees, all trembling," he said.

Jean Paucton, who keeps bees in the Parc de la Villette in Paris as well as in the rural Creuse department of central France, said his town bees produce on average 100 kilograms of honey per hive as opposed to 20 to 25 kilograms in the country.

"In town the bees go out more," he said.

Claiming some 22,000 members, UNAF has been campaigning for years against certain pesticides which it says are destroying the bee-keeping industry. Two chemicals -- Gaucho and Regent -- have been banned, but UNAF says their effects are still being felt in the countryside.

"These molecules are neurotoxins which disorientate the bee and make it impossible for it to find the hive again. Normally we can expect to lose say five percent of bees, but in some regions we have been losing up to 45 percent," said UNAF president Henri Clement.

Hoping to promote urban bee-keeping, UNAF this week launched a campaign to encourage local authorities, businesses and individuals to set up hives in parks, gardens, balconies and roofs.

Paris's best-known apiary is on the roof of the ornate Opera Garnier, which produces an average of 100 kilograms of "Opera Honey" every year.

First Published: Jan 17, 2006 20:10 IST