food / travel

The Sweet Spread Of Urban Honey

Did you know that city life is good for bees?

In St. Margrethen, Switzerland
In St. Margrethen, Switzerland
Veronique Zbiden

GENEVA — Try that honey flavored with lime, or with scents of thyme and lavender, or another with an aromatic touch of hazelnut. What do these different kinds of honey have in common? They are all made by urban bees.

The phenomenon may surprise, but should not worry you: yes, urban honey can taste better and bees may actually be happier to live in cities.

Bee colonies have quietly invaded our cities over the past few years for the express purpose of producing honey. The first such hive was installed on the roof of the Opéra de Paris by a props worker at the beginning of the 1980s.

Since then, they have spread to other major metropoli: including dozens in London, 300 in Paris, twice as many in Berlin and in Switzerland. Here in Geneva, a variety of people and institutions are dedicated to the well-being of the hives: local government workers, theaters, schools and even shopping centers and hotels. Same thing in Zurich which even sells its own honey named the Zürihonig.

But what drives all these city-dwellers to become beekeepers?

Restoring biodiversity

In Lausanne, the first hives were installed in 2009 to restore biodiversity and plant life. "At first, it was not about honey. Bees transfer pollen from plant to plant and therefore, enable fertilization and reproduction in our parks," explains Sébastien Liardon, who runs the city's project. Cities, he says, actually boast a "wonderful bioversity that the countryside, with the single-crop farming, has lost."

Around the airport of Cointrin, near Geneva, bees pollinate 140 various vegetal species and even a particular orchid which is not found elsewhere in Switzerland.

Thanks to this variety, the quality of the urban honey is superior, says Liardon, who also notes that is also healthier because it can stimulate our metabolism and be a natural remedy against a sore throat.

An unpolluted honey

But what about the urban pollution? Doesn't it affect the quality of city-made honey? According to Bertrand Stämpfli, spokeperson of the Cointrin airport and beekeeper, therein lies the source of the paradox. "This honey comes from a supposedly polluting industrial platform but does not contain any trace of kerosene or hydrocarbon," he says.

It is the same in Lausanne and Zurich: no trace of pollution. Most urban gardeners banished all kinds of pesticides or insecticides that are sometimes used in the countryside.

"The bee does not care if there are pesticides in a rapeseed field, it will go there if it is the easiest way to gather pollen. This would result in a mediocre honey," says Peter Schneider, a former architect who is now a beekeeper in Zurich.

Life in the city can also be better for the bees themselves. With milder temperatures, they live longer and are more productive: in the city, an apiary can produce up to 30 kilograms each year, more than twice as much as in the countryside.

Only the beginning?

But will urban honey production stick for the long run? Jean-Daniel Charrière, who works for the Swiss Bee Research Center of Agroscope, says the city has "significant potential" to become the center of honey-making in the future.

"Nowadays, city dwellers want to reconnect with this idyll of nature, which they can do just by installing hives on their roofs or in their gardens," Charrière says. But he also warns that this practice may contain risks such as the transmission of diseases from one bee colony to another.

So in cities, as in the countryside, the spreading of bees offers the same chance for a sweet reward, if you can manage to avoid the proverbial sting.

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New Delhi, India: Fumigation Against Dengue Fever In New Delhi

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 வணக்கம்*

Welcome to Thursday, where America's top general reacts to China's test of a hypersonic weapon system, Russia is forced to reimpose lockdown measures and Venice's historic gondola race is hit by a doping scandal. French daily Les Echos also offers a cautionary tale of fraud in the crypto economy.

[*Vaṇakkam, Tamil - India, Sri Lanka, Singapore]


Top U.S. general says Chinese weapon nearly a "Sputnik moment": China recently conducted a "very concerning" test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its push to expand space and military technologies, Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg News. America's top military officer said that this was akin to the Soviet Union's stunning launch of the world's first satellite, Sputnik, 1957, which sparked the Cold War space race. Milley also called the test of the weapon "a very significant technological event" that is just one element of China's military capabilities.

Brexit: France seizes British trawler: A British trawler has been seized by France while fishing in French waters without a license, amid escalating conflict over post-Brexit fishing rights. France's Minister for Europe said it will adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards Britain and block access to virtually all of its boats until it awards licenses to French fishermen.

COVID update: Russia confirmed a new record of coronavirus deaths, forcing officials to reimpose some lockdown measures, including a nationwide workplace shutdown in the first week of November. Germany also saw its numbers spike, with more than 28,000 new infections yesterday, adding to worries about restrictions this winter there and elsewhere in Europe. Singapore, meanwhile, reported the biggest surge in the city-state since the coronavirus pandemic began. Positive news on the vaccine front, as U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck granted royalty-free license for a COVID-19 antiviral pill to help protect people in the developing world.

Iran nuclear talks to resume: Iran's top nuclear negotiator said multilateral talks in Vienna with world powers about its nuclear development program will resume before the end of November. The announcement comes after the U.S. warned efforts to revive the deal were in "critical phase."

First U.S. passport with "X" gender marker: The U.S. State Department has issued its first American passport with an "X" gender marker. It is designed to give nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people a marker other than male or female on their travel document. Several other countries, including Canada, Argentina and Nepal, already offer the same option.

China limits construction of super skyscrapers: China has restricted smaller cities in the country from building extremely tall skyscrapers, as part of a larger bid to crack down on wasteful vanity projects by local governments. Earlier this year the country issued a ban on "ugly architecture."

Doping scandal hits Venice's gondola race: For the first time in the history of the Venice Historical Regatta, a participant has tested positive to marijuana in a doping test: Gondolier Renato Busetto, who finished the race in second place, will be suspended for 13 months.


"End of the ice age," titles German-language Luxembourgish daily Luxemburger Wort, writing about how the ice melting in the Arctic opens up new economic opportunities with a new passage for countries like Russia and China but with potentially devastating effects for the environment. The issue of the Arctic is one of the topics that will be discussed at the COP26 Climate Change Conference which kicks off in Glasgow on Sunday.


$87 billion

A new United Nations report found that extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts have caused India an average annual loss of about $87 billion in 2020. India is among the countries which suffered the most from weather hazards this year along with China and Japan.


Air Next: How a crypto scam collapsed on a single spelling mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy from Laurence Boisseau in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

📲 The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system. Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation.

📝 On Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, the CEO admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

⚠️ What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond". Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

➡️


"A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional, and fired a live round."

— Following the Oct. 21 on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Sante Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told a press conference that the "facts are clear" about the final moments before Hutchins was shot. The investigation continues to determine what led up to that moment, and any possible criminal responsibility related to how the "prop" gun that actor Alec Baldwin fired was loaded.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Share with us your favorite gondola memories or worst crypto scams — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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