My honeybees were out this morning in my back garden in Battersea. I saw them before I left for work, heading for the parks, railways sidings and gardens that dot this corner of south London. With Michaelmas daisies, Japanese anemones and autumn-flowering crocuses still in bloom, they will hopefully return to the hive laden with food to add to their winter stores.
One of the joys of keeping bees in London is the longer season. Bees are usually active from spring to the end of the summer, but the mild climate and huge variety of plants and flowers means that you can see your bees coming and going practically all year round. And there is nothing more heart-warming than seeing your golden and black–striped workers returning to their hive with blobs of brightly coloured pollen on their back legs and nectar in their bellies. It is a perfect way for an urban dweller to unwind and reconnect with nature after a long day in the office.
I started keeping bees in London with my partner five years ago. What about the neighbours, most people ask. We’ve never had any problems. Once they understand that bees only eat nectar and pollen and only sting if under attack, they have always been highly supportive.
I wanted to keep bees to bring a piece of the countryside to the city and because I think I was suffering from what is now called nature-deficit disorder. I had no knowledge of what it entailed, nor any history in the family of beekeeping. We enrolled on a one-day beekeeping course and signed up to get a swarm of bees from a member of the London Beekeepers Association. Since that first colony arrived, many more people have taken up the hobby, and we have more hives scattered around London in the gardens of friends and family, as well as a nature reserve in Kings Cross.
RTFA. A brief glimpse of the ease and simplicity of urban beekeeping. And here I am revisiting the topic for at least the 3rd time in as many weeks.
My father-in-law hasn’t rolled in from the road, yet – but, he’s already emailed that he has ordered a book for me. Just in case I get round to getting serious about beekeeping.