The sweet art of beekeeping
resource going. In recent years, the number of beekeepers has buzzed back up: while in 2007 there were only 8,000 members of the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), after a successful campaign to raise public awareness, membership had increased to 25,000 by 2012.
“More people started to keep bees for the environment rather than for a big crop of honey,” says Diane Roberts of the BBKA.
A survey last year by the BBKA suggests that beekeepers in England produce an average of 11.8kg (26lb) of honey per hive (owners have an aver- age of 4.5 hives each). The South East is the most productive area, producing an average of 13.6kg (30lb) per hive.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, hives in city and suburban gardens typically produce more honey than rural gardens. “In the city the growth season is longer as it’s warmer, but there is also a much greater variety of forage, with large parks, trees, railway sidings and, increasingly, green roofs,” says Gibson.
“In the country there are more monocultures – for example, large fields of oil seed rape [and harmful pesticides] – that tend to produce a less complex flavour than the multi-faceted city honey.” Producing your own honey with lavender or honeysuckle notes sounds dreamy, but how easy is it to keep bees in towns and cities?
You don’t need to live on top of a forage source, as bees fly for a two-and-ahalf hour radius around their hive, which could be on a balcony or roof terrace.
The London Beekeepers’ Association estimates that honeybees need to fly 55,000 miles and make four million
Dale Gibson on a London roof, right and above