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For those of you that thought beekeeping was restricted to the countryside, think again. There is a new crop of beekeepers doing their thing in London and in other urban areas all over the UK. It is estimated that there are 5,000 beehives in the capital alone, which means that at the height of summer honeybees outnumber humans in London by 30 to 1.

Attempts to understand why beekeeping has suddenly taken off in urban areas can be answered with the assistance of soul singer Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson: “The best things in life are free.” The benefit of a bit of fresh air, reconnecting with nature and helping bees will also be a factor in why people are taking up this hobby, but ultimately you can’t beat free food. This offer of free honey is also made even more enticing when one is made aware of the fact that city-produced honey can be of great quality. This is down to the fact that in the city there is a wealth of flowers and foliage for the bees to take advantage of, whereas in the countryside there may be a lack of variety.

Any readers who get a little nervous at the thought of swarms of honeybees buzzing around should fear not, because honeybees go about their daily business of managing the colony and seeking food and water without bothering anybody.

Just as with Hydroponics, Apiculture (beekeeping) takes time, patience and no small amount of effort to master; it is not something that you can simply take up at the drop of a hat. Added to that is the cost of setting up your Apiary, roughly £150 if you buy secondhand. There is plenty of support online though and a number of classes available to set you on your way.

All The Bee Collective requires as payment for this service is a small amount of honey

Things are set to get slightly easier for urban beekeepers who are struggling to extract their honey. The Bee Collective in Victoria have created a ‘honey house’ where they have the facilities to extract, jar and label vast quantities of honey from different beekeepers all over London. All The Bee Collective requires as payment for this service is a small amount of honey, which it will then sell in order to make money to create more habitats and thus more food for honeybees in the capital.

It is good to see that something is being done to reinvest in the interest of honeybees and beekeeping alike, as this year’s downpours in April and June particularly prevented bees from getting out and foraging to be able to make honey. It was so serious that the National Bee Unit issued two high-level alerts warning beekeepers to feed their bees a sugar water solution to prevent them from starving to death.

Naturally due to the bad weather this year’s honey yield has come in way under average, so maybe if you get on it and start producing your own tasty honey via your own hives you might have a nice little earner on your hands.

The Urban Honey Collective is a website designed to allow honey lovers to track down local honey from nearby beekeepers. Information on how to get started is available from the British Beekeepers Association.


This article was originally published in Issue 002 of HYDROMAG (November – December 2012).

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