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Notre Dame's 180,000-Strong Bee Colony Survived The Fire By Getting 'Drunk'

A story of survival has emerged from last week's devastating Notre Dame fire, in the form of nature's hardest workers. 

The iconic landmark in Paris was gutted during a fire last week. It's expected to take five years to bring back the cathedral to its former glory.

READ MORE: Parisians Left 'In Tears' On The Streets As Notre Dame Cathedral Burns

But in some good news the cathedral's colony of 180,000 bees survived the intense blaze.

The three hives were installed on the 19th century spires in 2013.

According to Nicolas Geant, who has been the cathedral's beekeeper since the installation of the colony, the bees were "drunk" on smoke.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” he told The Associated Press.

“Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep."

READ MORE: Why Notre Dame Cathedral Is So Important To Paris

READ MORE: Notre Dame Cathedral Saved From Complete Annihilation

European bees, like all bees, don't have lungs so weren't affected by the smoke, but Geant said the intense heat of the fire was a worry,

“When bees sense fire, they gorge themselves on honey and stay to protect their queen, who doesn’t move,” he said.

“I saw how big the flames were, so I immediately thought it was going to kill the bees.

"Even though they were 30 meters lower than the top roof, the wax in the hives melts at 63 degrees Celsius.”

The first sign of hope for the bees was on Wednesday, when aerial images of the cathedral's roof showed the three hives were virtually intact following the blaze.

"An ounce of hope! The pictures taken by different drones show that the 3 hives are still in place ... and obviously intact!" Beeopic, a French beekeeping society posted on Instagram.

"As for the occupants, the mystery remains intact. Smoke, heat, water ... we will see if our brave bees are still with us as soon as we have access to the site, which may take a lot of time."

Three days later, the bees were confirmed to have survived the fire.

"Our bees at Notre Dame Cathedral are still alive!! Confirmation from the site managers!!" Beeopic said.

Smoke is often used by beekeepers to calm aggressive bees.