In miraculous escape, bees living on Notre Dame’s roof survive inferno

The miraculous survival of the bees after the inferno led to a huge celebration online.

The devastating fire in Notre Dame severely damaged the ancient cathedral’s roof woodwork leading to the collapse of the spire. However, thousands of bees living on the top of the church survived miraculously.

The miracle, which many describes "as sweet as honey", was confirmed by the beekeeper of the Notre Dame who oversees the bees. Even though the inferno that consumed the cathedral’s ancient wooden roof, around 1,80,000 bees survived living in another roof, some 30 metres from the main roof where the fire had spread.

"It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn," Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant told The Associated Press on Friday. Geant has overseen the bees since 2013, when three hives were installed on the roof of the stone sacristy that joins the south end of the monument.

The aim of these installations was to help the cathedral to preserve biopersity, as stated in Notre Dame’s website, the hives were installed to "remind people of the beauty of Creation and the responsibility of mankind towards it".

Luckily, the artificial wooden hives weren’t caught in the fire and hence it survived, but the beekeeper was worried that the excess heat might have damaged the beeswax and the insects might have perished inside. However, he explained that as bees don’t have lungs, the smoke did not affect them adversely. "Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep," he explained.

European bees, unlike some bee species elsewhere, don’t abandon their hives when facing danger but melting wax could have been fatal. "Wax melts at 63 degrees, if the hive had reached that temperature the wax would have melted and glued the bees together, they would have all perished," Geant told CNN.

"I was incredibly sad about Notre Dame because it’s such a beautiful building, and as a catholic it means a lot to me. But to hear there is life when it comes to the bees, that’s just wonderful. I was overjoyed," he added.

"Thank goodness the flames didn’t touch them. It’s a miracle!"