Inner city bee keeping
Here at London Living, we are always interested in what keeps communities vibrant, seeing as this is something we are taking seriously in our plans for the future of East Village.
In our exploration of community-building activities, we wanted to find something for those who aren’t necessarily into sport, but still want to get involved in their local communities; and thus stumbled into the hitherto unknown (to us) world of inner-city bee-keeping.
We asked Brixton resident Tsieske, 32, who has been keeping bees for three years, to tell us about how she got into beekeeping and how it benefits local communities, as well as the bee population.
“Someone gave me a book on beekeeping and I thought it was really cool, and then I saw the weekend course at the London Beekeepers Association and thought I’d give it a go,” she told us. “After doing that course, they asked me to help out for a year, which means it means it doesn’t cost you anything. If you did it yourself, it would cost quite a lot to get the bee suit, the hive and the bees. So you can see if you like it and you learn a lot.”
The London Beekeepers Association is run entirely by passionate volunteers and represents the interests of beekeepers and urban beekeeping in central London:
“We seek to promote forage and stand for responsible bee keeping through training, education and effective management of the many diseases that threaten our bees. More recently the LBKA has evolved to discourage the placing of hives on very high rooftops. The LBKA is the association for those in London who already keep bees or who intend to do so, for beginners who want to start beekeeping and need instruction, and for anyone who wishes to be associated with beekeeping in the London area.”
Obviously responsible beekeeping is essential, so the LBKA is committed to ensuring beers are not a nuisance to the wider public.
“Belonging to a community like mine is great in that there is always someone to ring and help you out,” Tsieske continues. “You will always have mentors, people who are have lots of experience. I work in the backyard of a lady in Clapham who kindly opened her massive garden to allow people to bee-keep. She even has several neighbours’ entrances you can use. It’s like a community house.”
“It is a massive mix of people now, you get old men with beards to teenagers who are interested in bees. The communities contain people are from all walks of life.”
So the final question we just had to ask – how many times has she been stung? “I’ve only been properly stung about four or five times, just by one bee each time. But it’s not because they get angry, it’s because they get stuck somewhere, like in your pocket or against something.”
It seems bee-keeping has particularly taken off in Hackney; recently Hackney and Tower Hamlets Friends of the Earth held a successful ‘bee walk‘, where two groups of local residents, local groups and the Tower Hamlets Biodiversity Officer walked from Tower Hamlets Cemetery to Victoria Park. The idea was to look at habitats that are both good and bad for bees and to send everyone went away full of ideas and enthusiasm for helping the flailing bee community. Hackney and Tower Hamlets Friends of the Earth are also encouraging locals to help their fuzzy friends by planting flowers and shrubs that attract bees, avoiding the use of chemicals in gardens, and keeping the grass in city gardens; you can sign their petition to adopt a National Bee Action Plan to gets bees back on track here.
A few reasons why London needs bees, courtesy of Friends of the Earth:
- Bees pollinate 75% of our most vital crops and favourite foods.
Without bees and other insects we’d also have 20% less vitamin C, 41% less vitamin A and 9% less calcium.
- Without bees it would cost UK farmers £1.8 billion a year to pollinate our crops.
That’s more than it costs farmers to produce all the milk consumed in the UK every year.
- They’re essential to our gardens, parks and countryside.
Bees and other insects help pollinate over 75% of our plants, which in turn are vital to our insects, birds and animals.