London: Buzzy and Bright


We can barely touch the surface of the science of Biophilia and the disciplines it encompasses, but to give you a glimpse, we present the last of four examples of how different peoples and countries are putting their biofeelings to work around the world. Each of these initiatives represents a way to reach thousands of other people with the message that biophilic elements have real value in the built environment. The more we each understand this, the more likely we are to protect the natural spaces we have left. 

All over the world, beekeeping has become increasingly popular as a way for urban dwellers to reconnect with nature. The people of London have embraced it for a whole host of reasons:  the honey, the stress relief, and the connection with nature. After all, beekeeping is ideal in a city of parks and gardens. London’s remarkable 25% green space is provided by private gardens of all sizes and types. Elegant garden squares, open public spaces, and the famous Royal Parks, such as Hyde Park, Kensington gardens and St. James’s Park. Together, these are home to a huge diversity of plant life.


The rich variety of forage available here results in an amazingly complex tasting, and plentiful, supply of honey. It’s not just urban farmers and community gardeners who are getting involved, but people from all walks of life.  They do it to help the environment and — perhaps most importantly — to escape the stresses of modern life. In short, they do it to put a little natural warmth back into their cool city lives.


From back yards to Buckingham Palace, beehives are almost anywhere in London. More surprisingly, you can now find beehives on many of London’s rooftops — where bees need particularly careful handling. St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern have them on their roofs, looked after by expert beekeepers. Historic department store Fortnum & Mason has had particular success with its sixth-floor hives, producing its exclusive Fortnum’s Bees Honey.

2500 Hives registered in London / 50,000 Bees in each hive / 70 lbs. of Honey from each hive in every season 


In A World Without Bees, urban beekeeping experts Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum discuss how, if all the world’s bees disappeared, mankind would have only four years left to live. Without bees, there’s no pollination, and without pollination, there are no plants — and soon no animals, and then no humans. It’s a sobering thought that the western honeybee pollinates 70% of the food we eat. And it’s an extremely sound reason to become a beekeeper.


But if the ultimate aim is to save bees (and therefore ourselves), it’s important to do it properly. Keeping thousands of bees happy, healthy and productive is a complex craft. Anyone who looks into a beehive is enthralled by this mesmerizing miracle of organization. And there’s plenty of help for those who want to learn. For example, The London Beekeepers Association (LBKA) offers in-depth training and a mentoring program, which supports novice beekeepers, passing on a wealth of experience.


City dwellers that don’t practice beekeeping can still help protect our ecology and our food chain. “You don’t have to keep bees to save them,” says the LBKA, “There are many other useful things we can all do. We can plant ‘pollinator-friendly’ flowers, trees and plants. We can also stop using pesticides in our gardens. And we can support our local beekeepers by buying their honey.”

Inspired to Act Natural? Learn more about biophilia and how it influences our design, and enter our Act Natural Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip for two to Greenbuild 2012.

Posted in Category NeoCon2012 | 2 Comments

2 Responses to: London: Buzzy and Bright

  1. Angela Woods says:

    I am glad you are pushing our message of the need for training. You will need mentoring for at least a year before having the required competence and husbandry skills to keep bees. The last Honey Survey showed honey yields at an all time low with hives across the south east and London giving an average yield of only thirty one pounds not the seventy quoted. This illustrates all to plainly the pressure on forage which is also crowding out other pollinating insects. The last figures from the National Bee Unit suggests 3200 apiaries in Greater London and at each of those there will be two or three hives.

    Angela Woods
    Secretary LBKA

  2. Angela Woods says:

    Thanks for featuring bees and you are right to emphasise the need for more forage and for well trained beekeepers. The LBKA, uniquely, offers free mentoring for a season. To attain the necessary competence and husbandry skills this is the minimum time someone needs to keep bees. The National Bee Unit’s latest figures show 3200 registered apiaries in Greater London and at each of these there are likely to be three hives. The NBU reckons that only 75% of beekeepers register with them so the figure is much higher. The yields of honey in the last official Honey Survey show the lowest figures ever with an average yield per hive of thirty one pounds rather than the seventy you quote. Getting honey from your bees is becoming ever harder with the pressure on nectar and pollen which is seeing yields lower than the bees themselves need to get through the winter and the competition for food from other pollinating insects put real strain on bees. Saving the bees does not necessarily mean keeping bees. If you do, get proper training and if you don’t plant nectar rich plants in your harden and don’t use pesticides. Remember, at the moment, bees in London are more likely to die of starvation than anything else.

    Angela Woods
    Secretary, London Beekeepers Association

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