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The Buzz of the City

Urban Bees and Why They're GREAT!

You will have undoubtedly heard that bees, and other pollinators, are in trouble. Our fruit, veg and flowers all rely on the valuable pollination service that bees, moths and butterflies provide. They help keep our ecosystems healthy and resilient to viruses that threaten the plants in our gardens, parks and wilderness. Over the last 50 years there has been a steep decline in the abundance and diversity of these pollinators, largely due to the increased use of pesticides, reduced habitat and climate change.

 

Honey Bees

 Surely bees are better off in the countryside?

 
Contrary to what one might expect, urban bees survive better, produce more honey, and are healthier than rural bees. Furthermore, urban bees have a much higher winter survival rate of 62.5 percent, compared to just 40 percent for their rural friends. City bees also produce, on average, 26.25 pounds of honey in their first year, while the yield for rural bees is only 16.75 pounds.


How can a city bee produce more honey than a rural bee?

Now that we know that beehives located in cities often produce healthier and more productive bees, let me tell you why. The reason for bigger and arguably more delicious honey yields in the city is that urban bees have access to greater biodiversity, resulting in a more varied diet and stronger immune systems. Although it might seem natural that hives would thrive best in rural environments, modern monoculture farming exposes bees to less diverse plants types and more pesticides. The warmer micro-climate London produces means that a vast diversity of flowers can grow here. This adds a superior, more complex flavour that really reflects where the honey has come from.


Where can I find urban hives?

Here are a few examples of famous buildings that now host beehives on their rooftops.
 
1. The Ritz

The Ritz Beehive

This great Piccadilly establishment has a collection of three colonies of bees atop their rooftop (The hives are in fact named after the hotel’s signature suites.) The Ritz works closely with the London Bee Keeper Association and has trained up twelve internal beekeepers. The over-a-century-old hotel also takes delight in their bees through social media. Via Instagram, between pictures of luxe interiors, fresh spring cocktails and images of Hugh Grant wading through the lobby (as he did in Notting Hill twenty years ago), there is the occasional update on the status of the bees. A recent picture showed the beekeepers crossing Abbey Road in their distinctive beekeeping regalia.  

 

2. Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum and Mason Bee Hive

 

The hives at Fortnum & Mason have been in place since 2008 and are as elegant as the shop floor below. The five bee hives stand at six feet high (almost twice the height of a normal hive) and have individually designed triumphal arch entrances. These bees produce one crop of honey a year – what’s known as the Piccadilly London Honey – and the taste varies from year to year depending on the fauna they feast on. (There is a waiting list for this honey.) The bees fly free in pursuit of nearby flowers to pollinate, including from the stately gardens of Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

 

3. Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard Hotel Bee Hive

 

Camilla, the Ham Yard’s dedicated beekeeper, tends to the hives that occupy part of the Ham Yard’s roof garden. It’s brimming with bee friendly plants in situ about the hives. Very happily, the honey is used across a few of the fanciful cocktails offered by the hotel – like the Black Mamba (a mix of Portobello Road Gin, homemade spiced blackberry coulis and that secret ingredient, the resident honey). Mmmm yum!

They’ve been making the golden nectar since 2015. They also hosted an event involving classes, food and a little tipple alongside the hives in celebration of World Bee day – a very pleasant way to embrace the annual festivity.

Written by Fergus 

 

Discover their delicious honey range here…

Bermondsey Honey Range

 

The expert panel of judges for this years Great Taste Awards gave Bermondsey Street Bees a Golden Fork this year, meaning they were the Best Food Product in the London and the South-East area.


Creating a Bee-Friendly Garden

If you’re interested in urban or rural beekeeping then here’s a fantastic article on how to plant your very own bee-friendly garden.

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