City of London bees arrive

This week we’ll be giving bees a home on some of the City of London’s most iconic landmarks. Yes, the bees from Shropshire will be arriving  just in time for the City Of London’s annual festival which kicks of  on 21 June.  St Paul’s Cathedral, Middle Temple gardens, the Musuem of London and the Lloyds building are just some of the places where the  hives will be located. Urban Bees is working with the City of London festival to make sure the hives are located in the best place for both honeybees and the public, to help harvest the honey during the summer, and most importantly to train aspiring apiarists at each site to become responsible beekeepers so that the hives are sustainable.  We think it’s going to be a  real adventure and a great way to keep raising awareness about the vital role honeybees play in the environment.

The BBC and National Trust seem to be doing a great job on this front with its Bee Part of  it! campaign, launched last month.

The work we are doing with the Co-op in Camley Street in King’s Cross got a mention on BBC Two’s Working Lunch programme on 8 June and on the Naked Scientists on local BBC radio last Sunday- now on a podcast so you can listen to it here.

Busy bees

It’s been a busy old month with our bees swarming, and swarming and swarming! Luckily we’ve managed to catch the queen a couple of times and put her back in the hive so after an hour or so of frenzied activity the bees have come back. It’s certainly one way to get to know your neighbours. The ones who where around on our estate last Sunday when a swarm decided to head for the shady side of the tower block instead of the plan tree they usually head for, were fascinated by the bees and some came into our garden to look at the hive.

In addition to the swarming season, we began two hands-on training courses in May: the six week course on Wednesday evenings in Battersea and the summer-long course in King’s Cross funded by the Co-op. Both are going well. We’ve got two hives for the Battersea students, some of whom have graduated from the one day taster course we were running in the autumn/winter. At Camley Street Natural Park, the bees just arrived this week so the class helped transfer the nucs into the four hives which form the training apiary. It was great for them to finally handle bees after a couple of weeks of theory classes. The 20 aspiring apiarists have all been supplied with hives, smokers, suits and hive tools by the Co-op and should get their own bees by the end of June. Until then they’ll be getting the hang of handling the bees and hive inspections at the training apiary once a week.

As for the City of London festival, the sites have now all be chosen and the bees are excepted very soon. More details to follow.

Food Junctions and Urban Bees

Urban Bees is participating in Food Junctions, an event created by University College London (UCL) as part of the Reveal Festival in King’s Cross from 22 April to 2 May.
Food Junctions is designed to bring food, nature and culture together to help people understand, reflect and take action to reshape and control their relationship with food. UCL’s leading academics, community groups, environmentalists and the public will exploring solutions to the possible crisis in the food system.
The event includes demonstrations on how to grow more of your own food, bake your own bread, and keep your own bees – that’s were we come in.

On Saturday 1 May, Urban Bees is giving a talk about how to bring bees to the city.

The Co-operative works with Urban Bees to train new apiarists

The Co-operative is funding Urban Bees to set up an urban teaching apiary and run a beekeeping course for 24 Londoners this summer.

The scheme is part of the Co-op’s Plan Bee campaign that is helping to address the worrying decline in the British honeybee population.

The Co-op piloted an urban apiary and beekeeping courses in Manchester last year, now it is rolling out the idea to inner city London and to Inverness.

In London, it asked Urban Bees to find a suitable site. We approached Camley Street Natural Park in King’s Cross with the idea of introducing honeybee colonies into the park and utilising its classroom facilities to run beekeeping classes.  The nature park – an oasis of tranquillity behind one of the busiest train stations in Europe – is run by the London Wildlife Trust and is an established public recreational and educational facility. It readily agreed to host four training hives and is excited to be part of a project that will introduce more honeybees and more responsible beekeepers into the capital.

Camley Street Natural Park

Camley Street Natural Park

The project will get going next month when the bees have been delivered onsite and the would-be trainees selected from a long list of hopefuls who applied to the Co-op.

We’re going to be running the beekeeping one evening a week at Camley Street throughout the summer, with monthly sessions in the winter, so that we  train a cohort of responsible new beekeepers in their first year.

As part of the scheme, the Co-op is proving hives, equipment and bees for the new beekeepers – that’s more than 1.2 million new honeybees introduced into the capital.

For aspiring apiarists not lucky enough to get a Co-op hive, we will also be running a series of short ‘introduction to beekeeping sessions’ over the summer at Camley Street. We will shortly be posting details about how you can apply for a place on one of these sessions.

Working with Camley Street Natural Park means that the project will be sustainable and have longevity after the Co-op funding runs out. And by incorporating the apiary into its educational framework, LWT will help to educate Londoners about the vital role honeybees play in the environment.

Urban Bees is very excited and privileged to be able to work with the Co-op and Camley Street Natural Park to encourage beekeeping in London.

We are hoping that people who attend the course will be able to share their experiences by posting photos, comments and blogs at a dedicated site.

New York overturns beekeeping ban

Good news for the urban bees movement from across the Atlantic with the news this week that the New York authorities have overturned a ban on keeping bees in the city. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene unanimously amended the law after it received a petition calling for beekeeping to be legalised in the city, organised by the New York City Beekeepers Association, and considered research showing that Apis mellifera are not harmful to the public.

Of course people have been flouting the longtime ban, keeping hives on rooftops in Manhattan, backyards in Brooklyn and community gardens in Harlem. But they risked incurring a $2,000 fine. Now the practice is legal, they will have to register their hives with the health department, but no license is required.  The register will mostly be used to help resolve any complaints.

The NYCBA was formed two years ago and has 220 members. It runs beekeeping courses and with a change in the law and a growing interest in urban beekeeping across the States, that number is sure to rise.

Spring time and the bees

It has been a long time coming but the sun is out and the mercury has risen giving our bees the opportunity to get out into the fresh air work those muscles.

We have been told about colonies not coming through the winter so I was worried about our hives but so far the ones in Battersea are all well and the hive in Wallington is amazingly strong. 10 frames of bees. Don’t understand how that can be but there it was. I gave them a new brood with new foundation and some drawn out comb. Hopefully the queen will move up into the clean parts. Then I can isolate her with a queen excluder for 3 weeks when all the brood has hatched. Then I can get rid of all the old comb and the diseases that might be associated with it.

That’s the plan.

Bees are collecting pollen

It such a great sight. Pollen on the back legs of the bees. Even better when it is Feb and only 10 degress. The pollen was a very brigh white colour. Not a huge amount coming back but at least they were finding something. Does anyone know what it might be. My pollen chart says Hazel pollen is white and the http://tinyurl.com/c9todd says maple is light. But if anyone out there knows what pollen my bees are collecting I would love you to leave a comment.

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City of London Festival beehives

This year the City Of London Festival is embracing the International Year of Biodiversity by introducing a number of hives into the square mile and putting on a number of artisitic installations.

Urban Bees are working with CoLF and their partners to advise and train the new beekeeping community. Today we had a look at two potential sites. More details when things are finalised.

It is going to be exciting to have the buzz of more bees in the city.

Map of hive locations

You want to keep bees and would like to know if there is someone in your area who wants to buddy up or you want to find someone who is experienced.
Using our new map you could insert your own location onto the map and let others know if you have a colony or if you are looking to start.

Check it out at urbanbees.co.uk.

Cambodia In search of the giant honey bee, Apis dorsata

We have just come back from a trip to Cambodia where we were lucky enough get involved with a honey harvest of wild Apis Dorsata bees with a local honey hunter. Here are some of the pictures. The honey hunter erected a rafter ( a large straight branch of wood) which seem to be just the ideal nesting position for the wild bees. The bees build their nest on the rafter and when the honey is ready the honey hunter smokes the bees away and cuts down the honey head. The bees will replace the honey and the process can be repeated. Historically the honey hunters were more inclined to cut down the whole strucutre and eat the larvae but they are now encourage to collect just the honey which gets a good price with the tourists hotels.

It was an amazing experience to be there and see it first hand.