Back To School !

Orford Primary School
Orford Primary School

Fronted with an instantly-recognisable Victorian school design, Orford Primary School provides a friendly, inclusive learning environment for its pupils. It is set in the beautiful Suffolk coastal town of Orford and has a catchment area of the parishes of Gedgrave, Iken, Butley, Sudbourne and Chillesford. With its own weather station (sponsored by Orford Sailing Club), a dedicated IT annexe and a pioneering array of solar panels on its rear extension roof, the school represents a great asset for the community. And on the last day of Science Week in March 2015, I was preparing to take my bees to school.

Bee-Shed Thermometer At 5C In The Eclipse

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. That time was last September, when Debbie Gayler took over the joint headship of Aldeburgh and Orford Primary Schools and I offered to bring the bees in to show to the children. Now it was mid-March, 5C and in the middle of a solar eclipse, with a clammy, dank light fading perceptibly. And I was decanting Queen Beryl and 5 frames of bees out of Snape Hive and putting them into a glass observation hive to take into the school. Suddenly, it didn’t seem such a good idea, after all.

Orford Hives
Snape, Castle and Iken Hives

But the time had come. I had long thought that, since the pupils can see the hives from their playground, I should satisfy their curiosity, broaden their education and pique their interest in their neighbouring bees. So to introduce them by name, the two cedar hives are called Snape and Iken, named after local villages and the experimental poly-hive in the middle is called Castle. Because it looks a little like Orford Castle.

Obervation Hive Set Up In Hall
Obervation Hive Set Up In Hall

So I introduced the children from Aldeburgh and Orford Schools to their local bees in Assembly. And also to my lovely assistant and wife, Sarah. Just as well for that preamble, since in the nick of time, the School lap-top, my memory-stick and the projector started talking to each other, so that my narration of bees going about their business in all months of the year and could fall into place with the pictures. Things were definitely starting to look up.

Observation Hive
Playing “Find The Queen”

An observation hive has a single-frame of bees with the Queen, bees, eggs, larvae, sealed brood and some honey on it, inside a viewing section with two glass-sides. This is fixed on top of a nucleus (half-size) hive with 4 frames of bees and a frame of food in it, to keep the bees busy inside the hive. It is a secure installation for both bees and spectators, but the precaution of fixing it in place with a ratchet strap, just like all my hives in the apiary, always seems like a wise idea.

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It was a pleasure to take questions about honeybees from all ages of this well-disciplined, but bright and cheerful group of children. There was one question which referred to the Queen’s mating flight and which needed delicate handling, but I think Queen Beryl’s blushes were spared.

Lunch At Orford Scool
Lunch At Orford School

At the lunch-break I was given my first School Dinner for 35 years – and my compliments to the chef ! Orford School has worked closely with the Jamie Oliver Foundation to disseminate The Teaching Garden Project to other local schools – and its teaching kitchen adds an invaluable dimension to the educational facilities for the area’s schools.

Foraging Bee2
Bee Foraging On Orford School’s Rosemary

The school has own organic vegetable and herb garden in which all the children work. Which is great for my bees, who gather pollen and nectar from the plants. Pollination helps the plants become more fertile and productive. Thanks for your gardening work, everyone !

Bee Foraging - Note The Yellow Pollen Bag On Its Leg
Bee Foraging – Note The Yellow Pollen Bag On Her Leg

Bees eat lunch, too, you know.

Observation Hive1
Observation Hive In The IT Room

After lunch, we set up the Observation Hive in the centre of the IT room (once again strapping it down securely)

Bee-Jackets For Dressing-Up

and a bee-jacket and blue glove Dressing-Up station at one end of the room

Propolis – Gum From Trees

and a touch-zone with real Propolis


and real Pollen displayed at the other.

Our Suffolk Coastal Honey

And what bee-education day would be complete without a honey tasting ? Here’s a tip which you can try yourself. Take a spoonful of local honey, pop it in your mouth, close your eyes and just hold it on your tongue for a count of five. Just taking this little extra time will reward you with a real release of flavours…

Dressing Up1
A Budding Beekeeper

Then we divided up each class into three groups, so that they could rotate around the room and ask questions about each exhibit in turn.

Dressing Up
Sarah Telling The Children About The Bees

Yes. Looking through a bee-veil does slightly change your view of the world. It makes seeing things a little harder, but it gives you protection. It is important that adults and children should never consider approach bee-hives without proper protective clothing and only while accompanied by an experienced beekeeper.

Back Home_edited-1
Observation Hive Back Home

The sun was shining, after the glum, clouded solar eclipse, as we took the Observation hive back to the apiary and replaced its frames in Snape Hive. The way to think of a bee-hive is as a single organism, with its own personality, habits and even its very own smell, which comes from the particular odour of each hive’s Queen. The bees reunited bees soon settled back into Snape hive.

Snape Hive - 22 March 2015_edited-1
Snape Hive, Settling Down After A Day Out

In many ways, a happy, healthy bee-hive is just like a bustling, buzzing school. Everyone gets on well together and works hard to get the day’s tasks done.

The Goal At Orford
The Goal At Orford

At the end of the day, our goal had been achieved: a spoonful of education about Orford’s bees. And a little entertainment along the way. Sarah and I really enjoyed being “school-side” for a day. Thank you, Debbie Gayler – and your wonderful staff. And of course, thank you, Orford Primary School children for your hospitality to our bees in your school kitchen garden. I can only repeat the words of Orford resident and writer, Anthony Horowitz, who remarked about Orford School, its staff and its pupils: “What a great place. The sort of school everyone would wish they’d been to.” Quite.

Bees And Water

Holocaust Memorial - Close Up 2


Water is essential for life. Surprising then, that bees don’t store water.

Despite their advanced social structures and their ability to stockpile and preserve honey, pollen and propolis in their hives, bees cannot store water. They share this inability with the rest of the animal kingdom. Like fire and wind, water is an element over which only we human beings can exert control. More or less. And for better or worse.

But bees have to forage for water, which means leaving the hive to find the water to feed their brood, diluting the honey and making pollen stores more manageable. In cold weather, this can be a life-or-death excursion, since bees fall into a “chill coma” when exposed to temperatures below 10C over a short period of time – especially if they have just taken on board a crop full of cold water to take back to the hive. Water really is a matter of life or death for bees.

Let’s not despair. Bees don’t need expensively-packaged, designer-water: they like their water source to be reliable first and crystal-clean second. So if you have a leaky pipe-joint, or a shady patch where beads of morning dew still sparkle at noon, or a persistent puddle of dubious purity, the bees will favour that. I wrote a blog post in 2013 about the congregation of bees at the ventilation pipe of my central-heating system – all coming to take advantage of this regular supply of condensed H2O.

One year, I even tried a drip-feed-bottle water system into the hives, with old water bottles screwed into a nozzle which retained the water at the aperture for the bees to drink, without the jeopardy of leaving the hive in mid-winter. It was fusssy to maintain and I did not detect any improvement in the bees’ build-up the next spring, so I haven’t used this strategy again. Indeed, bees can take advantage of natural condensation in their hives (which must be kept away from the bees and brood – or risk suffocation as their spiracles get blocked) by careful arrangement and then licking the liquid off the interior hive walls.

And if you are ever tempted to put a nice bucket of water in the middle of your apiary in times of drought, please don’t! In my experience, a flotilla of little wooden rafts notwithstanding, your average, common-or-garden honeybee has a homeopathic dose of whatever it is which is supposed to make lemmings commit mass suicide by diving into water. Unless the water dribbles, beads, or puddles with a graduated, not steep, shoreline, you will be dismayed by the number of drowned bees. Of course, a sufficient quantity of water-foragers will not drown and will bring the water of life back to the rejoicing hive. Mission accomplished. But instead, let me recommend the practical solution adopted by Berlin beekeeper, Dominik, to provide a safe and reliable water supply for his bees. An inspired device.

So let me leave you with two eternal truths: Water doesn’t flow uphill. And bees can’t swim.


Rooftop Bees In Kreuzberg
Rooftop Bees In Kreuzberg

At the “Bee-Berlin” Conference, I sat down next to a lady called Christine and we struck up a name-badged conversation, chatting about bee topics. As the Conference drew to a close, I was surpised and delighted that Christine invited Sarah, my wife, and me to visit her Berlin apiary. As it turned out, Christine and her husband Dominik were urban rooftop beekeepers, living in Kreuzberg, a trendy suburb of Berlin with a very active beekeeping group.

To The Roof
Up To The Roof

On Sunday afternoon, we arrived at their home, a former industrial building featuring a bright and airy open-plan interior, with bedrooms radiating from it. We enjoyed “Kaffee und Kuchen” (beekeeperly English translation: “Tea and biscuits”) at a huge oval table with some prominent members of the Kreuzberg beekeeping association, Nils and Krisztina. Then it was time for the main event: a visit the bees on their roof. We ducked through a hatch, crouching past the tell-tale bee-jackets, up a small ladder and into the milky sunlight of a Spring afternoon.


On the flat fourth-floor roof, the bare branches of a plane tree wrapped around the colourful polystyrene hives. We were lucky – the bees were flying, despite the low temperatures. In particular, they were fetching water from an unusual device – a terracotta dish filled with smooth stones and fed by a medical drip-feed device from a 100-litre blue plastic water butt.

Drip-Fed Water System For Bees
Dominik’s Drip-Fed Water System

This is Dominik’s own invention: a reliable, long-term water source for his bees. This is important, since bees have to forage for water, too, not just pollen and nectar. Dominik has activated the water system to deliver one drop per second, or 3 litres a day. So a single butt will be guarantee a water-supply for his bees for more than one month.

Honey Room1
A Honey Room : Every Beekeeper’s Dream

While this ingenious application of medical technology to the bee-world was impressive, nothing could prepare us for the excitement which awaited us in the basement: a fully equipped, pristine honey room. White-walled, with wide surfaces, large sink and an extendible hose it was an ideal place for uncapping, spinning, filtering, ripening and jarring the honey harvest from the roof.

Honey Room3
Stack Of Poly Boxes In The Honey Room

As every beekeeper knows, when you extract honey, it gets everywhere: on door-knobs, carpets, taps, shoes – even on pets. A honey room restricts this sticky contagion to a single, self-contained, easily cleaned unit. Bliss !

All of which brings us on to the honey fron Dominik and Christine’s apiary: it is simply delicious.

Kreuzberg Honey

Sarah and I agreed that competing with this sophisticated, tangy, long-flavoured honey would stretch our award-winning Bermondsey Street Honey to the limit. And then some. Best to just enjoy it in the moment and look forward to reciprocating these superlative gifts with some of our own 2015 honey crop.

Dominik had also obtained a laboratory analysis of their Spring and Summer Honeys – and the results contained one major surprise for me. Here are the Water Content and Pollen Anaysis data:

Spring: Water 16.2%; Horse Chestnut 31%, Forget-me-not 25.2%, Maple 16.7%, Willow 12.5%; Plum 9.9%, Hydrangea 3.2%.

Summer: Water 15.5%; Tree of Heaven 45.1%, Lime 23.7%, Forget-me-not 7.3%, Sweet Chestnut 5.9%, Rapeseed 4.7%, Hydrangea 3.8%, Raspberry 3.8%.

I was fascinated that Berlin’s humble Forget-me-not (“Vergissmeinnicht”) had such a major role to play in both Spring (25.2%) and Summer (7.3%) honey.

Mach's schnell
A Speedy Kreuzberg Bee

It has been suggested that Forget-me-not pollen can be over-represented in Pollen Analyses, since it is one of the smaller pollen grains. But I doubt that this was the case here. Pollen of any size can get into honey in the hive and during extraction. Taking pollen out of honey can only be done by filtration. And having seen the wide-gauge metal sieves which Dominik uses as his filters, I can vouch for the fact that any pollen present in his honey before filtration will certainly be there in the jar after filtration!

Christine and Dominik
Christine and Dominik

Christine and Dominik – thank you for your hospitality. I look forward to welcoming you to my Bermondsey Street rooftop before long.

Heimat, Sweet Heimat
Heimat, Sweet Heimat

No doubt about it: Berlin beekeepers are very hospitable folk. And they have very cute cats – here’s Christine and Dominik’s cat, Lucy, saying “Auf wiedersehen” and chewing thoughtfully on the Spring bouquet which we had brought them.


So it turns out that Berlin is a city of Forget-me-nots for bees. And for Sarah and I, too. We certainly will not forget our visit to the Kreuzberg rooftops.

“Bee-Berlin” Conference

Terminal 5 - An Early Start
Daybreak Over Terminal 5

The day was dawning brightly over Heathrow. With my bee-goggles on, I was contemplating the planes at Terminal Hive – sorry, Terminal Five – taking off and landing and contrasting their hulking ploddishness with the grace and elegance of bees performing the same activities.

Sarah and I were on our way to Berlin for a long weekend. Better yet, I had been invited to attend a “Bee-Berlin” Conference at the Abgeordnetenhaus (Berlin State Parliament) on the Friday afternoon. The best of both worlds.

Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin_edited-1
Bears Like Honey!

The Conference was organised by the Green Party’s Environmental representative, Dr Turgut Altug, and over 100 people attended this 4-hour meeting in the old Prussian State Parliament. All major parties were represented (even the Pirate Party, which in 2011 won 15 of the 141 total seats in the State Parliament with 8.9% of the vote. Berlin is the only German State Parliament with elected representatives from this rather alternative party). That’s Berlin for you!

Bees Have Hives, Politicians Have Parliaments

It is generally agreed that bees need staircases like woodpeckers need weasels. But the stairway in the Parliament provided an impressive ascent for beekeepers to the Conference venue. The room was packed, bright and comfortable and all the seats had been filled by the 2pm start. A diverse group of beekeepers: from the natural variety (Heinz Risse, keeper of hives on the roof of the Berlin State Parliament) to the more conventional (Dr Marc-Wilhelm Kohfink, beekeeper at the Botanical Gardens).

Bees Need Staircases Like Woodpeckers Need Weasels

Reassuringly, the Berlin Conference embraced many topics which were echoed by London beekeepers’ preoccupations. Education was top of the agenda: on-going education for beekeepers and education for the public about bees and beekeeping. There was also talk of targeted financial support for urban pollinators, a familiar theme. Of course, Berlin shares with most cities a virtual absence of the pesticides and herbicides which are imposed on their country cousins. However, we heard some alarming reports of overwintering losses in the city over 40% in 2015, against the historic average around 15%. I suspect that this year’s slow start to Spring will see a similar increase in UK overwintering losses.

Dr Turgut Altug expanded eloquently on his vision for “urban gardening”, “allotments” and an “edible city” in Berlin. And, in recognition of the importance of trees for Berlin’s forage (“Unter den Linden” translates as “under the lime-trees”) he championed the proposal for 10,000 new trees to be planted, partly in areas of the city lacking green spaces currently and partly replacing old, decrepit trees, which quickly become very high-maintenance and expensive to preserve (yes, London’s plane trees, I’m looking at you!).

The Conference About To Start
The Conference About To Start

Yet there were some striking differences in the challenges facing Berlin beekeepers, from my perspective as a born and bred Londoner. In particular, I found it startling that around 2,500 bee colonies are brought into Berlin each year by beekeepers from outside the city to take advantage of the nectar flow from the Lime trees. Given my focus on improving the forage situation for London’s high concentration of beehives, I would have expected more opposition to this incursion on Berlin’s native forage. After all, the itinerant beekeepers are taking a lot out of Berlin, without putting anything into Berlin. The reality, however, was that “das Wandern” as it is called, was not generally perceived as a threat to forage by Berlin’s >1,000 resident beekeepers, since they have plenty of forage to go around. Ominously, Berlin’s registered beekeepers have doubled over the last three years, so this relaxed perception of forage may yet be tested if numbers continue to rise. Obviously, though, this phenomenon brings sudden competition and an unquantifiable disease risk to Berlin’s indigenous bee population. But let’s face it, British beekeepers see nothing wrong with “taking the bees to the heather” to work the nectar flow from the rural heaths in late Summer. If the forage is there and incoming beekeepers are responsible with their bees, why not ?

The Panel

Another key difference (admittedly there could be a sampling bias in a Conference co-ordinated by the Green Party) was that Berlin beekeepers’ biggest concern was environmental pollution. That contrasts with London beekeepers, who see hive densities as their most pressing concern, with environmental pollution at the mid-point of the list. Awareness of the existence of 560 German species of bee (there are 298 bees species recorded in Berlin alone, more than the UK’s estimated 230+ total bee species count) was a feature of the conference. And remember, as I always say, only one of these species is the honeybee. One further small difference in Berlin is that there is an ecological edict against spreading salt in icy conditions – only sand is permitted. Finally, England’s National Pollinator strategy, due to be implemented by 2018, was admired as a constructive national policy to improve the welfare of England’s pollinators, including bees. Berlin’s beekeepers would like to see something like it in Germany.

Bee Berlin
Putting The Bee In Beerlin

Which brings me back to where we started: contemplations on an airport. Not Heathrow this time. Tempelhof. First, a bit of back-story: The London Borough of Barnet has twinning arrangements with nine foreign districts and cities, more than any other London borough. My father, the first Mayor of Barnet, energetically promoted student exchanges and was largely responsible for Barnet’s proliferation of international alliances. He also saw it as a great way to globe-trot in style in the 1960s and 70s, when UK citizens were limited to a strict £50 foreign currency allowance when travelling abroad. In particular, the twinning with Tempelhof was of great importance to his libertarian instincts, since Tempelhof airport had been the proud hub of the Berlin Airlift (colourfully called the “Berliner Luftbrücke”, the “Air-Bridge” by the local population) and provided the life-blood of West Berlin when the Soviets halted all land-traffic in 1948. Tempelhof was decommissioned as an airport in 2008 and has been a public park since 2010, covering nearly three times the area of Hyde Park. Half the Conference attendees wanted to take a spade to it and tame it into an organized bee-forage zone, while the other half wanted to leave it to its own devices and celebrate its wilderness. As always with beekeepers, opinion was divided.

Bee-Berlin Conference
“Spot The British Beekeeper” Competition

Certainly, travel broadens the mind. But it can widen the waistband, too. Here is an irresistible item which I saw in Lidl. It is called a “Bee-Sting Pastry” (“Bienenstich Plunder”, to give it its full, glorious title), sweetened with honey, filled with vanilla custard and topped with almonds.

Bienenstich Plunder = Bee-Sting Pastry
Bienenstich Plunder = Bee-Sting Pastry

The story goes that the baker who invented the confection was stung by a bee which had been attracted by the honey. So it’s not just the 100+ beekeepers at the Conference who care about Bees in Berlin -there’s always small queue of Berliners foraging by the Lidl bakery shelves demonstrating their enthusiasm for Bienenstich Plunder!

Erika Mayr's Book on Beekeeping In Berlin
Erika Mayr’s Book on Beekeeping In Berlin

“Vielen Dank”, Berlin, for a convivial and educational afternoon. I really enjoyed meeting fellow beekeepers and making new friends. More about that in another blog post. Special thanks to Erika Mayr, author of “Stadtbienen”, whose invitation brought me to the Conference, as well as Dr. Turgut Altug, who organized the forum. Also thanks to Olaf Schwerdtfeger, Deputy Chair of the Berlin Beekeepers’ Association, for his cheery enthusiam. All three were valuable and informative speakers on the Beekeeping panel.

I hope that I will be able to repay your hospitality at my Bermondsey Street rooftop before too long !

Bee Craft : Forage Hangout

Foraging Beekeeper, Out & About

Thanks to James Dearsley at Bee Craft for hosting this on-line Google+ “Hang-out” on Forage and Natural Beekeeping tonight.

More on my Berlin trip later. It gave me exceptionally intriguing insights into another city’s beekeeping experience. Much more on Forage later, too. I’ve been out and about on that topic and have a real breakthrough. By beekeepers, for beekeepers. Yes, indeed!

But for now, here’s the Hang-Out….

Honey Tasting

Honey Tasting_edited-2
Our Very Yellow Spring Breakfast Table

To celebrate the arrival of Spring, we held a breakfast honey tasting in Suffolk last Sunday. Amidst a vibrant outbreak of yellow daffodils and a dish of butter, we decanted 4 of our favourite honeys: one rural summer honey, one borage honey, one Italian acacia honey and, of course, Bermondsey Street Honey. It was a solemn ceremony. To begin with, anyway.

Honey Contenders
The Honey-Tasting Contenders

Four triangular dishes were labelled A, B, C, D on their underside and the honey decanted into each one. All were tasted, noted and scored blind, with 4 points for 1st and 1 point for 4th . Take it from me that each of these top-flight honeys was delicious.

The final scores were: Bermondsey Street Honey 11; Rural summer honey 9; Italian acacia 6; borage honey 4. Tasting Notes for Bermondsey Street Honey: “luscious”, “concentrated”, “lingering”, “slight pepper”, “buzzy”, “enrobing”, “tangy”.

Pride Of Place In Our Spring Tasting

I was particularly pleased that the Bermondsey Street Honey prevailed, even though we tasted it fourth and last, since by then our palates were getting jaded. Let’s face it, if Bermondsey Street Honey, “Best Honey in London” at the National Honey Show in 2011 and Second Best in 2013, had come in stone last, there would have been one very red face around the table! Mine.

But as it was, yellow set the tone for a glorious Spring day. And it’s time to look forward to this year’s bees, rather than tasting last year’s honey.

Three Feet Or Three Miles

3 Miles Around My Apiary
Three Miles Around My Apiary

Three Feet Or Three Miles”: these five short words enshrine a golden rule of beekeeping. Maybe it is the hypnotic repetition of “three”, or the dramatic difference in scale between three feet (one yard) and three miles (5280 yards), or possibly the fateful choice hingeing on the tiny word “or“, which imbues this incantation with its mysterious, poetic charm.

But its meaning remains enigmatic until it is revealed as the shorthand version of an exhortation to the beekeeping faithful that: “Thou shalt not move a bee-hive more than three feet, nay, verily, nor less than three miles. No way. Or else.”

Why not ? The simple fact is that, if you move a hive by less than 3 feet, the flying bees will first return to the the exact spot of the old location, engage in a brief period of head-scratching but will soon figure out the new site nearby because of its proximity (as well as its familiar smell and appearance). The bee-brain allows for a certain amount of movement in its habitat – but not much. That’s the way the natural world behaves. All well and good.

Now, move a bee hive more than 3 feet, and less than 3 miles, and the bees will return to the precise and original location of the hive and become increasingly dis-orientated by the disappearance of their home. And they will quite possibly stay there until they perish of hunger and exposure, with their on-board sat nav insisting this is indeed their hive site, even if there is no hive to be seen or scented in the vicinity. In desperation, the homeless foragers may offer their nectar- and pollen-loads as the price of admission to an unfamiliar honeybee colony nearby. But in either case, the hive which has been moved will be deprived of its foraging bees and will soon be dangerously short of food. Not good. Between that 1 yard and the next 5280 yards exist 5279 yards of deadly danger for a beehive in transit.

And if you move a bee-colony 3 miles or more, the good news is that the bees will not recognise any of their former flight lines and will not attempt to follow them back to their hive (simply because 3 miles is the range for a foraging bee to travel to collect pollen or nectar and still offer a net positive energy income to the hive). So bees live in blissful ignorance of what lies beyond that 3-mile radius of their own hive and have no signposts to guide them back to the original site once moved more than 3 miles. They will settle in their new apiary location and happily get on with life.

So there you are. The commandment is: “Three feet or three miles”.

This being beekeeping, of course, there are exceptions to every rule: in deepest winter, hives can be moved between 3 feet and 3 miles. The clustered bees will not remember their previous map reference after a few days’ detention in the hive and will thoroughly orientate themselves at the new location when Spring  arrives, dipping and bobbing at the hive entrance, before embarking on a forage trip.

Or you can move a hive a little every day or so, so that the bees drift along as the hive edges towards to its new position. Like grandmother’s footsteps.

Also, a swarm of bees can be rehoused in the same apiary from which the swarm has issued, since the act of swarming wipes clean the bees’ sense of location. No surprise – it‘s where they’re going next which matters to a swarm, not where they’ve just come from.

So now you know. Go on, bamboozle your friends with: “Three feet or three miles”. And, a word to the wise, I’ve found that that the metric version : “A metre, or 5K” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Three Feet (Well, Pairs Of Feet)
Three Feet (Well, Three Pairs Of Feet)

Digging For Victory

Barnaby's Bee-Yard. Before.
Barnaby’s Bee-Yard. Before.

Yesterday, for the third weekend in the month of February, I was out and about with a spade in my hand. All in the cause of bees and beekeeping. Digging for beekeeping victory, I call it. And on the one other weekend in February, I was taking the Minutes at the Leiston Beekeeping Association AGM, with pen in my hand. And with not a bee in sight. My take-away on February 2015: real beekeeping starts long before you pull on a bee-suit.

Barnaby’s Bee-Yard. Now.

But this weekend was special. Yes, I’ve set up Apiaries. In urban and in rural settings. And I have moved bee-hives from on Apiary to another. But this was my first full-Apiary transplant!

Barnaby Shaw: Lending  A Hand.
Bee Urban’s Barnaby Shaw: Lending A Hand.

The formidable Barnaby Shaw, leading light of social enterprise Bee Urban in Kennington Park has been compelled to move his Bee Barn and bee-yard 200 yards to a new location in the Park. The existing Keeper’s Lodge and Bee Barn are on the site designated for a permanent ventilation shaft for the Northern Line Tube extension and so have to be vacated for the sake of infrastructure development in London. Barnaby and his community project have been based here since 2008, promoting bees and responsible beekeeping in the local area, so this is a real upheaval. What is more, Barnaby and his team have been prolific planters of permanent pollinator-friendly forage in the surrounding garden. A quick inventory: one Bee Barn, four bee-hives, 3 of Barnaby’s famous kiwi fruit vines and a quarter of an acre of sprouting, budding, early-flowering plants carpeting the garden surrounding the Lodge.

Digging For Victory

Our task was to excavate, pot up and wheelbarrow the best plants and shrubs. And start digging holes for planting at their new home. A genuine full-Apiary transplant. That’s an few hours’ weekend spade-work work for Sarah, Maff and I, but weeks of patient reconstruction for Barnaby and his team of volunteers.

Holes Dug For The Kiwis At The New Site

Worse yet, Lambeth Council have been intractable on the imposition of a hefty rent for the new premises behind the Café in Kennington Park. Barnaby and Bee Urban will need strong support from South East Londoners to continue their work enhancing the urban environment and promoting positive, ecologically sound practice around urban greening, building, farming and particularly bee-keeping.

The New Bee-Barn. Almost.
The New Kennington Park Bee-Barn. Almost.

Barnaby is a true all-in beekeeper. Bee Urban is a fantastic local resource for south-east London. Let’s all go out of our way to support them.