A guest post from Nichole Detering. Nichole is a beekeeper and educator living in Hammersmith. Her organisation manages hives, gives educational talks and teaches in schools about beekeeping. She can be contacted at barnes-bees.co.uk.
Over the past few years, beekeeping has been in the news quite frequently. One week we see articles about swarms of bees outside the Oxford Street Topshop and the next Friends of the Earth are dressing up as giant bees and protesting outside Westminster. The truth of the matter is that bee populations are on the decline and this could have an adverse effect onthe food crops grown in Britain. Bees and other insects pollinate over 70 food crops in Britain including apples, cherries, courgettes, rape, clover and much more.
Their contribution to the British economy is estimated around £400 million each year. If we look at the EU in total, this jumps up to £1.4 billion pounds in pollination services. Without bees, we would have to replace their job at a huge cost.
Bee populations are on the decline because of Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists are attempting to figure out why bees suddenly leave the hive or experience mass die-offs. Most theories point to loss of habitat, over-use of pesticides and mono-cultured farming as the main culprit. Raising awareness and educating the public about bees is one of the main goals of the British Beekeeping Association.
With increased awareness more people interested in beekeeping. Boris Johnson and his “Capital Bee” programme kicked off in 2011 and numbers have grown even more since then. The programme trained up 50 community members to run and organize their own beekeeping programs in Central London. Since then hundreds more beekeepers have started learning to keep hives, contributing to a massive surge of pollinators in London.
The beekeeping community in Hammersmith and Fulham has a long tradition, especially in many of the parks and green spaces. Fulham Palace has an active community of volunteer beekeepers and sponsors many local events.
There are hives all around Hammersmith, including Ravenscourt Park, Dove Pier and Shepherds Bush. Local beekeeping associations in the area are a great way to meet beekeepers and buy local honey.
If you don’t want to start beekeeping yourself, you can always support the local population by growing bee-friendly plants. Whether you have large garden, small terrace or window box, you can support local bees!
If you are interested in learning more about bees and beekeeping, please join us on June 17th at 7:00pm in the new hall of St Peter’s Primary School (3 St Peter’s Road, W6 9BA). There will be honey and a mead tasting and tickets are available for £5 at the Cross Keys.
Thanks Nicole. I am enthusiatic about urban beekeeping though don’t quite have the space to get involved myself, unfortunately! Do you think municipal planting schemes in the borough and the landscaping provided for new developments are sufficiently ‘bee-friendly’ or could they be improved? I see lots of evergreen shrubs, small trees and patches of bedding plants, but very little of the kind of flowering perennials that provide bees with food, as well as looking attractive to humans.
Hi Richard, great to hear you are interested in bees! I think the planting schemes throughout most of London have a long ways to go to become more bee friendly. Planting schemes that included more native flowers and bee-friendly species would be immensely helpful. We are about halfway through what beekeepers call the “June gap” where many of the spring flowering trees have lost their blossoms and summer flowers are not yet in bloom. Its a difficult time for bees to source nectar and pollen and could be addressed by specifically planting species that bloom during this period. As you mentioned, most bedding plants are self-pollinating, so not helpful for bees. More native perennials, green roofs with sedum and wildflowers throughout the borough would be a good start.A coordinated strategy to these throughout the borough and in new developments would be highly beneficial. My biggest worry is the area around the A4. While I support the FlyUnder proposal another cheaper alternative could be a living wall that acts as both an air/sound filter and also a safe haven for insects and wildlife. Anything to get Hammersmith greener and cleaner!