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(SKY NEWS) — Hundreds of thousands of bees housed on the roof of the Notre-Dame cathedral have survived Monday’s devastating fire.
Beekeeper Nicolas Geant said he was “so relieved” to discover his beloved insects were alive, admitting that he hadn’t been optimistic for their chances.
“I thought they had gone with the cathedral,” he said.
“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn.”
“Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep,” he explained.
The 180,000 bees of Notre Dame were first introduced to the Paris landmark in 2013 as part of a programme combating France’s declining bee population.
Three wooden hives were placed on the cathedral’s roof, with each hive housing around 60,000 bees.
It was a lucky escape for bees. Had the hives been closer to the flames, they likely wouldn’t have made it.
There had been hopes for the bees’ survival on the morning after the fire, when Mr Geant spotted the undamaged hives in drone footage captured over the area.
He later received a call from a Notre-Dame official, who said signs of life had been observed.
According to Mr Geant, smoke from the cathedral fire would not have been dangerous for the bees as they do not have lungs.
It is more likely that the carbon dioxide in the smoke had sedated the bees instead.
When bees sense fire, Mr Geant added, they “gorge themselves on honey”, and focus on protecting the queen.
The welcome news came just hours ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron’s scheduled meeting with the UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO, to discuss plans for restoring the 850-year-old cathedral to its former glory.
In a video address on Tuesday, Mr Macron said rebuilding work would take five years – a claim that has been deemed optimistic by critics.