Here’s my brief look back at the year’s highlights for Urban Bees.
Airbnb Bee Tour
While the honey bees were still tucked up in their hives during winter, people were coming on the Airbnb bee tour of King’s Cross, getting to exploring London Wildlife Trust’s Camley Street Nature Park and the Skip Garden and to taste delicious honeys from across the capital.
Their numbers increased throughout the year, with more than 100 in total enjoying the tour from all over the globe, as far as Australia and China to much closer to home in London. Time Out even made a short film. With an average 4.9 satisfaction rating (out of 5), everyone had a fantastic time and it was great for us to be able to spread the word about how to help all bees in urban environments across the world.
Bumblebees and solitary bees
With the arrival of spring we ensured the Savills planters on a roof at 111 Buckingham Palace Road were full of early flowering crocuses, wallflowers, primroses and heathers for any queen bumblebees venturing out on mild days in search of food.
We also looked out solitary bees, with managed bee hotels on the Savills roof and on the Weils roof terrace off Fleet Street. And we ran a DIY bee hotel workshop for pupils at Friars Primary School in Southwark where Weils’ staff volunteer. The 30 plus pupils also got to learn how to identify bees using our bee spotter guide on the terrace.
The Museum of London also hosted an Urban Bees bee hotel workshop as part of its sustainable cities festival.
We continued to work with clients such as Grosvenor estates and Canada House, where we introduced beekeeping to the new high commissioner’s husband. Other existing clients, included KPMG in Canary Wharf, where our weekly ‘meet the bee’ sessions for staff during the summer continue to be oversubscribed. For those who didn’t get a peek at the hives this year we ran some very popular lunch ‘n’ learn sessions about bees and forage and gave away wild flower seeds and Urban Bees leaflets on the best forage to plant for bees.
Among our exciting new clients were Coutts the bank who asked us to install and maintain a number of hives on its amazing Skyline garden above the Strand where executive chef, Peter Fiori has been growing exotic fruits and vegetables for a few years. Now many of those plants will be pollinated by their own bees which are also producing exclusive honey for the bank’s executive restaurant.
We will be working with a number of new companies in 2018, raising awareness about the importance of making our cities more bee-friendly.
One of the most exciting events of the year, was recognition for The Honey Club King’s Cross Bee Trail App. Now in its third year, the App won a Defra Bees’ Needs Award for raising awareness about bees and pollination. What was particularly gratifying about being nominated by our peers and winning the government award in 2017 was that it had been challenging to adapt and relaunch the App this year. The App designers, Wolff Olins,had moved from King’s Cross at the end of 2016 and so it was left to the remaining two members of the Honey Club (youth charity, Global Generation, and Urban Bees) to continue the work with little experience of designing and building Apps. After many hiccups along the way, it was eventually launched just in time for the summer holidays and was loved by everyone who downloaded it and got to count bees, explored the area, and got money off at participating restaurants and cafes along the way. Thanks again to everyone who made it happen, especially Nicole at Global Generation, Des Smith at Willbery Landscapes and Penny Metal, bee photographer extraordinaire (all pictured above).
Urban Bees was delighted to be able to support Penny’s amazing book, Insectinside - incredible photographs and wry observations of the hundreds of insect species in her local park. The Guardian’s Patrick Barkham called it “stunning” and ”beautiful and an inspiration – to take notice, and to take care”.