Saturday, 30 May 2015

Rise of the urban beekeeper: London rallies to plight of the humble honeybee Thousands install urban hives to help honeybees under threat

Londoners are rallying to protect the honeybee with growing numbers of residents installing hives in their gardens. The number of people in the capital hosting their own colonies has more than doubled in five years to 3,500 following high-profile campaigns to save the bees.
Bitten by the bug: the Standard’s Lizzie Edmonds tries her hand at beekeeping (Picture: Glenn Copus)
The Co-Operative’s Plan Bee drive, launched to combat the decline in pollinating insects, says honeybee numbers have fallen by up to 30 per cent in recent years, with worldwide bee populations in similar decline.
The British Beekeepers Association says an average of 9.6 colonies in every 100 perished between October 2013 and March last year — double the number that should be lost in winter. A loss of habitat and rising pollution are thought to be chiefly to blame.
Paul Webb, 37, and Chris Barnes, 40, founders of Barnes & Webb which installs and manage hives in London, said they are having to turn people away as demand soars.
Hive-makers Chris Barnes and Paul Webb (Picture: Glenn Copus)
They have installed 40 hives since 2012, half of them in the past 12 months, mostly in north-east London. The honey sells in Selfridges and other London stores.
Mr Webb, from Stoke Newington, said: “A lot of people in London are aware of the plight of the bees and want to help. Hosting hives obviously helps.”
Rebecca McClelland, 40, a photo editor who lives in Hackney with her husband Chris Robert, 43, a Central Saint Martins course director, and her 18-month-old son, is a Barnes & Webb customer. She said: “Londoners are very aware of the problems facing wildlife and want to help conservation.”
Some experts say there is not enough food in the city’s parks and gardens to sustain the surge, which they blame in part on “celebrity beekeepers” such as BBC Radio 4’s The World At One presenter Martha Kearney.
Rebecca McClelland, pictured with husband Chris Robert and her son, has installed a hive in their Hackney garden

Tim Lovett, of The British Beekeepers Association, said: “There is a limit to the amount of forage in urban settings. Once that is finished, bees are looking at concrete. The number of hives needs to be monitored.”
Mr Webb added: “We only put hives in areas we know they can thrive in. You can’t have too many in one area or it will become overpopulated.” Barnes & Webb is working with J Crew’s Save the Bees campaign and has put five hives designed by New York artist Donald Robertson in the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton to encourage Londoners to learn more about urban beekeeping. Half the money from sales of special  J Crew T-shirts, available in-store and online, goes to the Bug Life charity.