Some 180,000 bees kept in in hives on Notre Dame’s lead roof look to have been discovered alive despite the destructive blaze at the Paris cathedral.
“I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn," Nicolas Geant, the monument’s beekeeper, told reporters.
"I thought they had gone with the cathedral.”
A French beekeeping company, Beeopic Apiculture, posted images on Instagram that showed the hives intact and bees on a gargoyle, seemingly confirming the bees had survived.
Mr Geant said the carbon dioxide in the fire’s heavy smoke put the bees into a sedated state instead of killing them – adding that when bees sense fire they “gorge themselves on honey” and protect their queen.
European bees never abandon their hives, he said.
Mr Geant has looked after the bees since 2013, when they were installed as part of a city-wide initiative to boost declining bee numbers.
The hives were on a roof above the sacristy, just below the rose window of the cathedral, some 30 metres below the main roof where the fire took hold.
As they were below the main area of the blaze, the bees appear to have escaped - although Mr Geant has yet to be able to get up to them to check on their condition.