The sweet art of bee­keep­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

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

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