“In the middle of the afternoon, my technical manager arrived in a panic,” says Raphaël Arielli, branch manager of AGS Marseille. “A three-meter-high cloud of bees was swarming above our parking lot.” Although the Marseille team had dealt with a few wasps on the premises in the past, a swarm of bees was a first. The AGS Group has always prioritised environmental conservation. Despite its modest size, the bee plays an essential role in our food production. The species ensures 80% of pollination and therefore the reproduction of flowering plants. 35% of our food depends on fertilisation by insects, a process that includes bees, so it was only natural for the AGS Marseille team to rescue the swarm.
After a phone call to the fire department, which no longer provides bee removal services, Raphaël Arielli looked for a nearby beekeeper. He discovered that SMRI Mécanique, a nearby company specialising in mechanics and industrial valves, had four beehives on its premises. In no time he was at their door, requesting assistance from their small team of apiarists.
A tranquil rescue operation
The Managing Director of SMRI Mécanique, Claude Martini, and Patrick Parenti, the President of the Spne (Sensibilisation Protection Nature et Environnement), the association that introduced SMRI to bee conservation, support AGS Marseille’s desire to save their invaders. Patrick Parenti explains, “The hives divide this time every year, and a half leaves with the new queen. The bee population is under threat, so a rescue like this is crucial. We must protect them from predators like the Asian hornet and inappropriate behaviour like suffocation.”
Armed with protective suits and equipment, they rescued the swarm, which had by then relocated to a nearby cypress tree. Several branches were sawn off during the operation, but no smoking was required. “The SMRI team explained that bees loaded with honey, like ours were, are harmless,” says Raphaël Arielli.
An environmentally friendly approach
Once the queen was safely ensconced in the hive brought specially for the occasion, the other bees followed. The rescue operation, photographed by Christophe Moret, Planning Manager at AGS Marseille, was a success. “I am delighted and proud that we managed to rescue the bees and give them a good home,” says Priscille Kula, the deputy branch manager. This environmentally friendly approach is in line with the philosophy of the branch and the AGS Group as a whole. Moreover, it is a ray of light in these gloomy times.
SMRI similarly welcomed the rescue. “This new swarm will be SMRI’s fifth hive. It will help us continue to promote beehives in suburban areas among employees. We are protecting the environment at a time when global warming is causing devastating damage,” explains Claude Martini, who has been involved in the preservation of bees for the past five years thanks to the Snpe.
An environmental and social deed
SMRI has modified its green spaces by planting food-bearing plants that allow bees to forage throughout the year. It also keeps chickens to control predators and intends to plant fruit trees in the coming months to green up the pine forest destroyed by fire in 2020.
Like other businesses in the region, the company sells its honey through the Snpe. The non-profit has a good reputation and has already assisted the Hospital of Martigues, private individuals, the town hall of Châteauneuf, and many companies. “Our objective is to make them autonomous in their apiary management, like SMRI Mécanique is today,” adds Patrick Parentil. “We are also engaging in educational activities in schools.”
“This was a terrific experience because we came together for a worthy cause. We are delighted to have met local businesses and neighbours during this adventure,” says Raphaël Arielli. He concludes with a smile: “And why not have beehives at AGS?”
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