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TYOK Urban beekeeper
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a London beekeeper

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…according to Dale Gibson, 60.

Bees are in trouble – but not in the city

London is the most densely populated bee city in Europe, maybe in the world, with more than 5,000 hives. The problem isn’t too few bees, it’s finding enough sustainable forage. At Bermondsey Street Bees we actively plant in our locality and channel funds from corporate clients towards planting for bees.’

The biggest threats come from the east

‘Varroa mite is the main killer of bees in the UK. It’s an exotic parasite from Southeast Asia and our bees have no defence against it, unlike bees in Asia, which have adapted to live with the parasite. Thankfully we haven’t yet had to deal with the Asian hornet, which has been found in the south-west of the UK recently and is a devastating predator of honeybees.’

It’s easy to do local bees a favour

‘My wife Sarah has written a book to help people plant for bees on windowsills, on patios and in gardens. It’s a simple way to help London’s bees thrive. Blue and purple flowers work well because bees see in the ultraviolet spectrum, so those colours are strongly appealing to them.’

An archbishop’s garden makes for great honey

‘Bees in London can fly over a two-and-a-half-mile radius around their house, so their honey is stamped with the flavour of what they can collect. The bees I look after at Lambeth Palace benefit from a ten-acre garden that’s been continuously cultivated for more than 800 years and has a huge variety of plants, giving their honey a really interesting and long-lasting taste.’

‘Planting for Honeybees: The Grower’s Guide to Creating a Buzz’ by Sarah Wyndham Lewis is published by Quadrille.

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