It’s been another exciting year for Urban Bees. Here’s our highlights:
Lush’s bee-friendly roof terrace
On a freezing day in February Urban Bees started to create a bee-friendly roof terrace for Lush cosmetics’ head office in Soho. Not ideal gardening conditions, but we installed more than 20 hexagonal wooden planters lugged up all the soil and planted a Malus Evereste (Crab Apple) tree, some shrubs including Mahonia, winter-flowering heathers and some beautiful Hellebores. We’ve never gardened in skiing gloves before…but there’s always a first time for everything. And Lush were very keen to get the garden established for spring/summer 2018. Despite the Beast from the East Arctic conditions, by Marsh bumblebees had already been spotted on milder days out the heathers collecting early pollen. Yippee!
By late spring the terrace is starting to flower with sky blue Mytosis (Forget-me-nots), stunning white Allium Cowanii and the Malus Evereste (Crab Apple) in full blossom being pollinated by honeybees. We attached bee hotels to the crab apple tree to provide tubes for cavity-nesting solitary bees like Red Mason bees (Osmia bicornis) to lay their eggs in. By the end of summer tubes were sealed with mud, proof that they had been used.
We chose hardy plants that can cope with exposed, dry conditions but luckily an outside tap was finally fitted to which we attached an expandable hose. This meant staff were able to water every day throughout the heatwave which lasted from June right through to August.
We added a few hanging baskets (containing RosyBee’s wonderful selection of bee-friendly flowers for pots), plus some trailing mini Strawberries, a bee pond (a shallow tray of water full of stones that the bees can stand on when having a drink) and summer perennials. The trick is trying to get a range of different bee-friendly plants flowering throughout the year, which we more or less managed. And where there is bee food, there are bees. We saw honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees.
Staff used the terrace a lot during the summer as somewhere to hang out and have lunch (when it wasn’t so hot). They loved seeing and hearing the bees buzzing around. Next year we hope to talk to them about the bees and maybe get an ID project going.
We ended the year planted hundreds of crocus bulbs that will provide much-needed early pollen and nectar for early flying bumblebees in spring 2019. Can’t wait to see them all. During the year, Lush were filming the roof’s transformation from a bee desert to a bee restaurant, so hopefully it will be ready to view soon.
Solitary bees at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
We teamed up with River for Flowers to create a solitary bee garden in the education zone of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. It was a fantastic opportunity to educate the public about how to create wildflower meadows and living walls for solitary bees and create nesting sites in a small urban space. We had a special bee box created by Nuturing Nature which allows visitors to see the stages of a solitary bees; development in the nest. We produced tote bags, postcards and leaflets to give away. Our brilliant garden designers, Kerrie McKinnon and Gabrielle Shay, won a much deserved silver medal and we had lots of visitors including Joanna Lumley, the BBC’s Martha Kearney, the gardening writer Alys Fowler and bee campaigner Samantha Roddick. Thanks to River of Flower’s Kathryn Lwin for her vision, project management and sheer brilliance to make it all happen. The living wall was installed on the Middlesex University Campus and planters went to brighten up a Royal Free hospital terrace.
We continued to work with clients including KMPG, Canada House and Amazon. And following the success of the hives on the Skyline garden at Coutts we began fortnightly ‘meet the bee’ sessions for staff during the summer.
In 2019, we will be working with a number of new companies and raising awareness about the importance of making our cities better for all types of bees.
Regents Park Honey
We had a bumper crop of honey this year from our apiaries in Regents Park following an extremely long, dry, hot summer which allowed the bees to get out and forage for longer than usual. In addition to the abundance of nectar the bees traditionally collect from the park’s lime trees in June, we think this year the avenues of tulip trees were also in full flower, adding to the nectar flow and giving the honey a delicious deeper flavour than previous years.
We also teamed up with the RAC to run our first Regents Park bee experience in September. Adapting our successful bee experience in King’s Cross, we introduced 20 members of the RAC to the different bees in the royal park and the flowers they feed on, got the visitors into bee suits and opened up a hive, and ended the tour with a honey tasting session in our storeroom. We hope to run more experiences in 2019.
The award-winning Honey Club King’s Cross Bee Trail App ran through the school summer holidays again. We were disappointed not to get any new partners on board. The King’s Cross development has hugely expanded since the App was launched four years ago, so now it covers just a small part of the site. We need new partners in 2019 with the technical expertise and know how to expand the App.
EU Pollinator Strategy
In March, we traveled to Brussels to impart some of our experience of raising awareness about bees in urban environments with policy makers, NGOs and academics across Europe as part of a consultation exercise to devise an EU-wide pollinator strategy. We met lots of interesting people doing some amazing projects. And an EU pollinator initiative was launched in June.
Special thanks to RosyBee for only growing and selling bee-friendly plug plants and researching which are the different bees’ favourites.