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Paris beekeepers - 2009

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Going to First Stop

In mid June of 2009, KLAUSESBEES contacted Monsieur Henri Clement and Johan Perron of the Apiary Society in Paris to introduce ourselves to them and to request a meeting with beekeepers within the city of Paris, as we, ourselves, would be in Paris at the end of October 2009. This started an ongoing dialogue over the next three months. The end result was a marvelous day with an arranged agenda, complete with translator, Dominique Castel, for Klaus. Monsieur Dominque Castel is also a beekeeper who teaches at the SCA (Société Centrale d'Apiculture), as well as works in the apiary at the Luxembourg garden in Paris.


Program of October 22, 2009

8h 45

Appointment to UNAF – 26 rue des Tournelles, PARIS -
Meeting with Claude Cohen, President, Apiary Trade Union and wife Amelie – Translator, Dominique Castel

Departure for Rue Sedaine

9h 15

Visit hive of Henri Meynadier – Owner of Anatome, a large communication firm

Subway/walk to..

10h 30

Visit hives of George Brassens with Gilles Boddaert, President - Société Centrale d'Apiculture

Subway/walk to...

12h 30

OPERA HOUSE, PARIS for luncheon at Garnier Opera cafeteria with Jean Paucton – Then visit the hives on the rooftop of the Opera House

We were then scheduled to visit the Veterinary Surgeon D'Alfort but Jean Paucton offered to give us an in depth/ personal and close up tour of the Opera House himself - (Jean is a retired Prop Master for the Opera House – a legend in his own time not only for his work at the Opera House but for the bees which he has kept atop the roof for the last 25 years). Mr. Paucton took us from the 5th floor basement to the cat walks on high, from the grand salons to the intimate backstage rehearsal chamber of the prima ballerinas, to the front rows of the 'house' itself to the orchestra pit... In short we spent the remainder of the day with Jean Paucton and his Opera House


Visit hives – BEE SENTINEL of Saint Mande attended to by Claude Cohen, President


Reception at Claude and Amelie Cohen's house – Visit hives
Wonderful home cooked French dinner.

Claude and assistant Pouring coffee, saying hello

After the initial introductions and a quick cup of expresso coffee to start our day we five, (Claude and Amelie Cohen/President, Klaus Koepfli/owner, Dominique Castel/translator, Erika Decker Koepfli/owner), headed out on foot towards our first destination – Henri Meynadier, owner of ANATOME communications located a few blocks away from the United National Apiary France/Trade Union (UNAF) in the heart of the city of Paris.

Amelia, Dominique, Claude, Klaus Amelia, Dominique, Claude, Klaus 2


Henri Meynadier – owner of ANATOME, a communications firm. Located in the heart of the city of Paris his courtyard and entrance area is all planted with bee friendly plants. His boardroom boasts of a beehive whose bee entrance has been created by him – a hole drilled through the wall has been fitted with a pipe for bee access to the hive. Extraction day is highly regarded as a day of celebration. Monsieur Henri Meynadier removes the frames from the hive and places them in a plastic bag then carries them down to the main lobby - a beautifully hand crafter tiled mosaic floor from the 1800’s to a small extractor – a long plastic ‘bucket container’ with knife - here he holds and slices the caps sealing the honey and lets the drip collect into the container then with a turn of the spiket the honey is jarred – everyone cheering with a glass of champagne raised in delight and triumph of the bee and life.

Henri's office Henri Hive in Henri's office Henri's office with hive Bee exit
Bee action Office hive opened Office hive lid Office sculpture Office courtyard

From Henri to Gilles

From Henri Meynadier to the George Brassens Parc we will again walk through the city passing the open air market, the corner of the Bastille which once held political prisoners and now is marked by a blue line on the street as the actual jail was located below the city streets. It is a beautiful day and as we pass under the metro connectives we pass interesting buildings and building art. A short walk of about 20minutes we stop to admire an old, now defunct, train system that once circled the inner city but now serves as a haven for bee hives, plants and a spot a greenery. We are on our way to the old slaughter house, now park.

A market day Marketday - flowers in window boxes Underpass from metro Building along the way From metro - canal view
Metro - Klaus, Amelie, Erika, Dom Billboard humour Metro - Klause, Amelie, erika and Dom Large building mural Closed train route - floral delight


George Brassens Park was originally a horse slaughter house. The only original remaining piece to be seen is the clock tower, now surrounded by a peaceful lake. The park is widely used by runners and school children, lovers and nature enthusiasts, and boasts a multitude of diversified feathered inhabitants– ducks, birds...

Gilles Boddaert is president of the oldest bee-keeping association in France, the SCA (Société Centrale d'Apiculture - Beekeeping Central Society), which was created in 1856 to promote new methods of beekeeping. The main aim of the SCA at the time was to try to induce beekeepers to create more symbiotic relationships with their bee colonies, thereby not destroying the bee simply for the honey. SCA were also the first people to set beehives in a public park in Paris (the Luxembourg - or Senate - gardens). Gilles Boddaert was the manager of very large school near Paris for many years. Although he is now retired living some 300 miles from Paris, he still makes his weekly visits to the George Brassens Park to keep an eye on the bees (mostly Buckfast) and to ’ visit’, as he so graciously did for us.

George Brassen Park Restaurant, theatre along side park Clock tower from horse slaughterhouse Park pond Park - food when in bloom
Park plants Grape vines along entrance to beehives Grapes SOCIETE CENTRAL placque Gilles Boddaert - park bee director
Dominique, Gilles and Klaus Dom, Klaus, Erika, Claude and Gilles Bee discussion - Dom, Klaus, Claude and Gille Klaus, Gilles and Erika

The George Brassens Parc was ‘reconstructed’ into the beautiful place we see today to accommodate joggers, children at play and the community. Here GillesBoddaert/ President of SCA points out that the ‘hill’, where the SCA (Société Centrale d'Apiculture - Beekeeping Central Society) created in 1856, was constructed with the height of the children in mind – hence the four levels: the wall of the first level being slightly taller than the average child so as not to create ‘bee flight’ havoc from levels 2 through 4. The left side of the mound is covered with grape vines – community wine – while the right side houses the bees. The centre of the mound is in fact the schoolhouse, complete with vivid posters, charts, and bee equipment, including extractors and vats and of course encouraging honey tasting.

Every French child is introduced to bee keeping early in their lives as living with the bee is fundamental to their lives.

Gilles - height explanation Level one - Buckfast Bees Claude, Gilles and Erika - level 2-3 Level one  - Erika photographs Gilles Level one - Dom, Gil and Erika Klaus walks second level
Looking through to level three Hives on third level Extra boxes Hive for bumblebees - woodbees Level 4 Teacher gives instructions
Amelia and students Klaus, Claude and students Students Veils set aside for students Beekeepers keeping Gilles smoking outside bees
Beekeepers moving in Teacher shows bees Gilles - teacher bees open Bees inside coming to surface Thriving inside Frame exposing bees - pollen, honey, brood
Syrup feeding box top Gilles showing classroom info Erika in a classroom Erika with Gilles instructing Knife for scraping frame Bee cell with developing larva
Egg of bee from classroom poster honey vats

From Gilles to Jean

Back on road passing public WC - Sanisette

Leaving the George Brassens Parc we head out on foot once again, passing through the streets – noting the newly biotech WC that dot the city streets: Sanisette (French pronunciation: [sani-zet]) is a registered trademark for a self-contained, self-cleaning, unisex, public toilet pioneered by the French company JCDecaux. These toilets (and other similar toilets) are a common sight in several major cities of the world, but they are perhaps most closely associated with the city of Paris, where they are ubiquitous. In the United Kingdom they (along with Automated Public Conveniences of other brands) are known informally as "Superloos".

The sanisette contains a toilet hidden behind a door that opens when a button is pressed or, in the case of a pay toilet, a coin inserted into a control panel on the outside of the toilet. A washbasin is provided as well (the style varies with the model of sanisette). When a user enters the toilet, the door closes to provide privacy. After the user has finished using the toilet, he/she exits and the door closes again. A wash cycle then begins inside the toilet, and the toilet fixture itself is scrubbed and disinfected automatically. After about sixty seconds, the toilet is again ready for use.

Special models exist for disabled users, although recent versions of sanisettes are designed to accommodate users in wheelchairs as well as the able-bodied. Some sanisettes are designed to mount flush within a wall (sometimes seen in Paris Métro stations), or within decorative outdoor Morris columns. Most sanisettes include indicators of their availability: ready, occupied, cycling (self-cleaning), or out of service. Sanisettes may be configured to require coins or to operate for free at the push of a button.

Sanisettes are usually configured to open the door after a preset period (typically 15 minutes) to discourage vagrants. The door cannot be opened from the outside unless the sanisette is available and a coin is inserted (or the appropriate button is pushed). A handle on the inside of the sanisette door allows it to be opened from the inside at any time (in recent versions, the door opens at the push of a button, but there is still a handle for emergencies). Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanisette

Further on this issue, as it has its humour and 'history':
A catastrophy: There are many legends and gossip columns that concern Sanisettes. A young girl has been crushed to death by the automatic washing system, two people have been amputated by the mechanism or asphyxiated by the disinfectant products. 'Sanisette' is part of the murderous objects in thrillers, just like the crazy lift, the killing-car of Christine, or H.A.L, the computer in Space Odyssey 2001.

Background: Indeed, high technology coin-operated public toilets aren't profitable because there are many free places to use in the city. JC Decaux (worldwide leader in urban design) compensates its losses by renting out advertisement space. The sanisettes in fact offer people a private space. Mostly they are used by people who need privacy for shocking or reprehensible activities. Thus, Sanisette works as a hiding-place for which you must pay.
Ref: http://badbeuys.ent.free.fr/pieces/sanisette.html Enough said now – onward...

We head over to the Metro at Bastille to make our way via metro to Paris Opera House.

Looking out over the canal at Bastille Metro stop, Claude points out that his grandfather had came from this area of the city.

The metro is crowded at this time with a group of demonstrators and the typical musician working his day – music for pay, if the listener is inclined. As we leave the metro to come street high Klaus suddenly realizes that his wallet has been lifted from his zippered inside pocket of his jacket. All cards are taken, money as well and all identification – not passport, thank goodness. A damper to be sure.

As we round the corner facing the Opera House I remember the American Express down the street and within minutes of entering the establishment all is resolved. Cards are stopped, money is issued and we are ready to resume our day and our meet with Jean Paucton. And within the time of the loss to the closure of the cards (maybe a 20mminute period) the thief had already purchased hundreds of dollars worth of items, so we are to learn later.

But we are in Paris and the day is beautiful and we are heading for the Opera House.

Acacia trees - bee food From metro - canal view Claude and Gilles Metro
Metro entertainment Protesters from metro Marchers from metro to rally Metro humour bear


Jean Paucton – retired Prop Master at The Paris Opera House, Paris.
A legend in his own time as both the Prop Master and the well-known beekeeper atop the roof of the famed Opera House. As Jean tells it he had been keeping his bees at his apartment outside the city proper and it was getting out of hand so one day he approached the 'then' manager of the Opera House and asked if he could put them on the roof until he figured out what his options might be. The manager say no reason not to so Jean moved his bees up and left them there to fend for themselves. Several weeks passed and he had almost forgotten about them until one day he realized he ought to take a check-see. And to his surprise and delight he found that the bees were thriving.

The city of Paris had been carefully planned out so it seems. Napoleon had not only taken to creating very wide boulevards for his 'show' of might and grandeur but had planted the city with bee friendly trees and anyone who has been to Paris knows the abundance of trees everywhere – all the plants in the city are bee friendly from the tall acacia trees, the oaks, maples, magnolias to the bushes and shrubbery to potted plants on window sills... An endless food supply that supports a bountiful harvest, for all to enjoy.

Jean Paucton, the Prop Master, tells a story of how when the Opera House was performing Carmen there was need of a smoke filled cabaret so the beekeeper stepped in with his bee smoker supplying the show with the needed ambiance for the set.

Jean Paucton was gracious enough to not only share his time with us atop the roof but to extend the day into a wonderful tour of the Opera House itself from the 5th floor basement (haunts of The Phantom – so proudly pointing out the water flowing and ladder that descends into the laborenth below the Opera House itself - to the 'horse' room where the rope pullies of old time were once manned by sailors who scampered high into the cat walk (the horse stable was first literally the stables for Napoleon's livery as well as the living quarters of the sailors whose labours were likened to those of the horse) – all pullies today are electronic, of course.

Jean started to sell his honey through the Opera House specialty store until a more recent manager decided that such a product was not 'quite right' for such an establishment. So Jean packed up his bottles (which sell for $50 250g) and took them down the street to a specialty market that was only too glad to become his vendor. And so business continues.

Jean Paucton is 77 years young and currently lives outside of the city of Paris proper, near Versailles.

Jean, Gilles, Mrs. Dom Mrs. Boddaert coming out onto rooftop Amerilie and Mrs. Boddaert Acacia trees from rooftop First view stepping out onto rooftop Beehives on Opera rooftop
Beehives on Opera rooftop 2 Claude Cohen and Jean Paucton Bees in activity Claude, Erika, Klaus, Jean, Gill and Dom Claude, Erika, Klaus, Jean, Gill and Dom 2 Corners meet atop rooftop Opera House
Klaus smile 2 - rooftop Klaus smile - rooftop Bees in flight Bee activity - Opera House Erika on rooftop Chimney vents - Opera House
Dominique, MrsBoddaert and Amelie Bees exploring opened cap Bee flying in Bee pollen carriers home to Opera House Erika walking rooftop Erika walking rooftop 2
Faces from rooftop Gilles on rooftop Hive box Face Jean - beekeeper Hive at edge
Hive over drain Hives Jean, Dom, Gill, Klaus and Erika Jean, Gill, Klaus, Claude and Erika Neighbouring building across from Opera House Jean Paucton beekeeper 2
Jean - rooftop Jean orchestrating Tour Eiffel from Opera House rooftop Jean and Klaus Jean Paucton - beekeeper Jean unplugging top
Plug opened Klaus and Dominique checking rooftop Klaus leaning over rooftop Klaus contemplating Jean with lid Klaus and Jean
Looking outward Slope of rooftop Klaus on rooftop of Opera House Silhouette of Jean and Claude - beekeepers Outward Rooftop face
Rooftop hives Smoker atop hive Relief under wrap Downward Christmas preparations Entering portal to inside from rooftop
Klaus climbing down from rooftop access Stair to roof top

Claude - Part 1

Claude Cohen – President
ADAIF (Association pour le Développement de l'Apiculture en Ile de France).

France is a country where Beekeeping has very old traditions: it goes back to the Roman Empire. But it really started as a "science" during the XIX° century (19th). All through the XIX° and the XX° (20th) century, a lot of various unions and associations were created in attempts to bring beekeepers together. To unite them as one cohesive group.

And after WW2 and the birth of modern ecology, the number of those unions had really exploded! But as is the way with humans, the various unions had started to inter-fight with each others instead of trying to cooperate to help beekeepers and beekeeping. So, during the 1980's, a movement was started to group all the various associations in hopes of reaching that goal - the result that, in 1998, the ADA (Associations for the Development of Apiculture) was created - a 'home' for each of the regions into which France is divided. Paris region, which is called Ile de France got its own ADA, which was called ADAIF.

The aim of the ADA's is not to group beekeepers, but to group beekeepers' associations. Dominique Castel belongs to the board of administrators, not as a private member, but as a representative of my own association, SCA, which I told you about in a former message. At the moment, there are 19 different unions and associations which are members of ADAIF. In terms of bees and beekeepers, it means 1700 beekeepers (amateur and professional) and a rough estimation of 30,000 beehives are now part of the association.

ADAIF groups not only beekeepers' unions, but also bee health organizations, which try to prevent and fight all the diseases and pests infecting the bees. ADAIF, with the strength of all those beekeepers and health organizations behind it, can talk to all the public and government services and be listened to.

Saint mande label Before the descent under ground Gateway to underground through parking Opening to underground Walking the underground Walking underground
Through the underground Through the opening up Klaus, Dominique and portal Claude, Dom and Klaus in open Street access - Claude and Dominique Proximity to apartments in city
The hives Hive, feeder and super top Claude with top in hand Showing feeder then super Hive without top Access route
Entrance route Water source Water source closeup Claude discussing

The bees of Saint Mande

The bees of Saint Mande are housed on community property below the street, just off the parking facilities. One actually walks through the now defunct train tunnel where once the inner city train skirted over to George Brassens Parc and around – through the torn up tracks inside the tunnel, over sand and whoever might be living there, in the dark, only to find yourself emerging into the light, into a row of hives flanked openly by apartments on either side. The grass grows and the diversified plants give food to the bees. And once again, schools bring their young children to wander amongst the hives while lessons on the importance of the bee and techniques on how to raise them are demonstrated. And for this service, Claude Cohen receives a stipend yearly – he, of course, is encouraged to share the proceeds of the honey flow with the community government.

Claude - Part 2

Claude and Amelie Cohen live in a posh neighborhood that welcomes his bees and those of other residents. In fact, when the honey flow has ended the neighbors are known to come by with empty glass jars in hand to 'test'. The President of the Apiary Trade Union keeps his bees on the front porch where all can see; along the side of the house are the ‘government’ hives and at the rear of his property is another set of hives. In short, the neighborhood benefits from the busy labors of the 'ladies' and a symbiotic relationship thrives.

Claude and Amelie do the festival markets – 'seasonals' - in which they share their bee products: bottled meads, honey, gingerbread, cookies etc...

Front porch view in neighbourhood House front porch Front porch Honey house below porch Honey house under front porch
Klaus bending under roof of honeyshack Through window of honeyshack Tray for extraction through window Tools of the trade Tray hanging for extraction drip
Honey spout from extractor Wall extrator basket etc Utilizing honeyshack space Klaus straightening up Humour on honey house door
Plastic access route Hive, feeder and 2 small supers Amelie's painting of hive Painted hive Stylized hives
Government city hive logo Government hives Softened sugar substitue winter food Softened sugar substitute ready Storage hives

In Review

Our last day in Paris was quite splendid. Meeting Beekeepers is always of great fun and interest to us – to see how others do our business, as it were. And as we know beekeeping all over the world is basically the same – tools and extraction methods haven't changed much over the years / some more hi tech but basically the usage is the same. Techniques may vary but we all seem to have similar issues – mites and disease, starvation, wax moths, hive maintenance, basic practices and clothing usage, re-queening, building and splitting colonies…. Often different varieties of bees are used throughout the world but all to the same end: pollination and honey products and the continuity of life.

And so when one asks me did I learn anything new the answer is always YES – because we are participating in another's interaction with this most incredible of all creatures. And it is in sharing our experiences that we come away with a sense of a greater unity, in some cases the lack of sadly – but it is the commonality that binds us together.

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