The ‘urban hives boom’ in 2008, followed by the coldest winter of the century all added up to a steady flow of honeybee colonies in London – Thousands of beehives were brought in to the city, only to be massacred by the cold weather, resulting in a near-normal honeybee population. But there’s still a long way to go if we want to keep the city buzzing, EMDM look at how important it is to maintain urban bees.
Unknown Causes of Urban Bee Decline
In the early 2000s, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs feared that limited green space in London meant we didn’t have enough honeybees. Fast-forward eight years and bizarrely; honeybees were still few and far between, raising the alarm to a potential bee pandemic.
Charities and conservationists encouraging anyone with an ounce of shrubbery to start beekeeping shortly followed, they were also concerned that a lack of bees in the city could cause viruses’ amongst crops and severe malnutrition of London’s most manicured lawns.
Do We Finally Have a Steady Flow of Bees?
The city saw a sharp spike in honeybee population circa 2008 according to the London Beekeepers’ Association and colonies grew by 300% just through campaigns from charities and offshore beekeeping giants such as Inmidtown in Manhatten.
Had there not been an unbearably freezing winter killing off 33.8% of London’s honeybee colonies, the city could have been drowning in them by 2014.
But there is still a high density of bees in the city, so much so that scientists worry that there are not enough plants for them to pollinate.
“There is a shortage of nectar and pollen in London to support the current bee population,” said Karin Courtman, 29, chairwoman of the London Beekeepers Association.
Creating Habitats for City Bees is Crucial
The knowledge that humans cannot breathe without bees is bred from a wee age. If beekeepers don’t plant more forage for the bee’s that have already settled here, then we could run out of pollinators.
Adding to the brewing cauldron of knowledge is the fact that honeybees pollinate more flowers than any other insect on the planet.
Why it Matters
Bees pollinate flowers, allowing them to blossom, reproduce and release oxygen. Typically, one bee will belong to a colony of about 20,000 to 80,000 depending on the season, and each bee will pollinate alongside its colony members.
A report by The London Beekeepers Association revealed that there were 1,618 registered colonies in London by 2008, but by 2013 that number grew to 3,337.
At approximately 10 beehives per square kilometer, the capital’s beekeepers may not be planting enough bee-friendly flowers to maintain the upkeep of its honeybees.
The UK’s National Bee Unit reported that from 2008-13, the number of beekeepers had tripled from 464 to 1,237 because of campaigns from charities such as The Garden & Leisure conservationist and retail group in London, who support families who want to bee keep.
Changing the Message
Camilla Goddard, owner of Capital Bee in South London, 62, says that the focus should not be on motivating amateurs to bee keep: “Trying to encourage people to plant for bees is important.
“…Naturally there will be an increase in numbers because it’s been warm and people have been having a lot of luck with their bees,” she says.
The city’s fluctuating bee population was caused by turbulent weather and a lack of beekeepers.
“…Overall I’d say it’s evened out [bee population], there was maybe too much a year ago and now its maybe gone down, now it’s going up again, so we need to plant,” said Goddard.
Lawrence Bob, worker at Park Beekeeping Supplies in Blackheath, 26, said: “Of course it’s an on going problem, but I think we’ve finally plateaued.”
The capital’s bees are in for a harmless year as bee-friendly weather, coupled with newfound encouragement from charity’s to start planting forage instead of beehives, could mean that each of London’s honeybees will have a flower of its own.
Bees Need More of These!