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

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.

Our bees are flying

The bees don’t like the cold but with the bright sunny day we had yesterday our Battersea bees were eager for a breath of fresh air and they took to the air for a short flight. We were pleased we saw them since I have heard from others who mentioned that their colonies had died over the cold winter. It looks like our Battersea bees had enough honey stores to see them through this part of the winter. Still a few weeks to go before it is over and the queen is laying more and more eggs from now on which will mean more food will be required to feed the little critters.

Battersea bees flying on a winter’s day.

We know that the bees take flight on sunny, cold days. It is said they do this to relieve themselves, to gather pollen and for the younger bees a chance to orientate themselves but I suspect that they just also take the chance to get out and about, stretch their wings and have a jolly. As can been seen from the video I shot yesterday video link we see that they were very active. It was around 2pm and 13 degrees C so I was a bit surprised to see quite as much activity as I did. I was so impressed I quickly grabbed the camera and shot a few minutes of video. Click here to watch the video

Queen’s Park Forum Environment Action Group

Wednesday night at the Beethoven Centre saw a packed hall of QP residents interested in how they could save money by being more environmentally aware. (click this link to leaflet) Urban Bees were there to gauge the resident’s opinion regarding a community apiary in their area. The response was positive. Some people were happy to encourage the idea of a community apiary while stipulating they didn’t actually want to get inside a hive while others were keen to learn about the beekeeping process.
We hope that with the involvement of the QP residents and the help from the Paddington Development Trust we can have a community apiary in the Queen’s Park area. This would be great for the bees, the flowering plants and the residents who will learn how to keep bees.
Want to know more get in touch with Brian at

Courses news

We ran our sixth course of the year on Sunday. Of the 20 who booked a place, some 15 turned up, which means that more than 80 aspiring apiarists have been on an Urban Bees taster course in 2009. We’re not quite sure how many have gone on to keep bees. We know of two for sure, who have kept in touch, sent photos and one of whom has appeared in the press as an example of that new phenomenon; the rise of the young urban beekeeper. We know that the shortage of bees this summer made it difficult for many would-be beekeepers to get going, others who came on the course were waiting until they’d moved house, or even country, before they took up the hobby. Others wanted to pair up with an experienced beekeeper before taking the plunge or to attend a longer, pratical course, but with some beekeepers’ associations reporting waiting lists of up to two or three years, this isn’t going to happen soon.

We’ve had great feedback from participants who’ve attended courses throughout the year and have emailed to thank us for such an informative day, to tell us that their beekeeping book now makes a lot more sense, and that they’d recommend Urban Bees to anyone considering becoming a beekeeper.

At Urban Bees we are looking a ways we can help all those people who have come on our taster course to channel that enthusiam and exictement into actual beekeeping. Over the next month or so we will be looking at how we can put would-be apiarists who have come on our courses and live near to each other in touch and provide you with what you need to make it as easy as possible to get started in spring 2010. Already two partcipants on Sunday’s course have asked us to supply them with a hive and bees. We will be exploring how we can develop this service.

Our next course is on 10 January. We hope it will be the beginning of an exciting year for Urban Bees and urban beekeeping.

Urban beekeeping in the news

One our pupils who came on a taster course earlier in year, was featured by AFP as a new breed of London beekeepers. Jon told the reporter that a one day course on urban beekeeping had set him on the right path.

Well done Jon, keep up the good work.

Our course in September went down really well.

Here are some comments:

“Just a note to say thanks so much for yesterday, it was great! I really enjoyed the whole day – the information, the lunch and meeting the bees. It was lovely to meet you too!”

“Just wanted to say thanks again for Sunday. I’ve been reading my bee books again and it all makes much more sense now. I was interested in keeping bees before but am now definitely planning to make a start next spring. I’ll certainly recommend Urban Bees to anyone I know who’s interested in learning more.

Queen’s Park bees

Smoker and hive in Queen's Park

Smoker and hive in Queen's Park

We were being filmed for AFP by Leon – the camera man and at the same time I was also giving advice to a recently started beekeeping couple so I was hoping the bees would behave. And they did. They were so sweet. We had a good look around and not one bee stung anyone. It was a lovely sunny day so that helped. Hopefully will get a photo or two to put up on the site.

The shame was there was no honey for us from this hive this year. The bees have some but I will leave that for them. I did put on a tub of apiguard to keep the varroa in check – though this hive was really clear of the little pests.

War Time sugar

Here’s a question that maybe someone could answer.

We were asked about the type of sugar war time beekeepers gave their bees – was it cane or beet sugar?

Did the UK still have imports of cane sugar during the war?

If anyone knows please leave a comment or email me at

Queen’s Park Bees

I really wasn’t expecting much from this hive this year since it looked very weak throughout the summer but had a peek this Sunday and was very happy to see that the colony had grown into a brood and half and looked very strong and healthy. I added a QE and stuck a super on top in the hope that they get really busy in the next 2-4 weeks and make a few frames of Queen’s Park honey. I am asking a lot from them but it can happen in London.

Wallington Bees

This hive was causing problems this summer and I combined a nuc with the weak colony in the WBC. After 4 weeks this colony has grown into the brood box and is looking good. It is looking strong and healthy enough to go into the autumn with a good chance of lasting the winter. Shame we did not get much honey off this site this year but at least we didn’t loose the bees.

Added wet frames this morning.

After harvesting a super of honey I gave the bees back the empty wet frames for them to lick clean. I did this first thing this morning which sent the bees into a frenetic buzz looking for the source of this amazing food. This meant loads of foragers went looking for it outside the hive. It took them about an hour to realise that the food was not outside the hive but inside the hive above the clearing board. During that hour I had hundreds (or so it seemed) of bees checking out the porch, kitchen, lounge and garden.

Must remember to only do this operation at night when the bees are confined to the hive.