Urban Beekeeping, The New Buzz on the Street.

Market-Stall1

Well now I know what it’s like to put your soul on the line and flog your wares at a market stall. After several long days making candles, tying ribbons in fiddly bows, choosing plants that had perfect petals, sourcing oversized playing cards for the Alice in Wonderland theme and getting out wads of cash for all that change I would need I ended up selling nine items. Yes, nine, and most of those were bought by my lovely friends who I’m sure took pity on me.

Whilst I’m loving this springtime weather, why did the sun have to come out on my big day? Bar a couple of old ladies who came in for some cheap tea, everyone had stripped down a la English and escaped to the park, leaving me to man my overstocked stall and contemplate what on earth I was going to do with a stash of crockery. It was so dead that I thought about food even more that usual and ended up scoffing the French Fancies that were there for display on my cake plate. While I’m on the subject, can I just say how disappointing they were. I remember these little pastel coloured delicacies being indulgent treats when I was at University but they are absolutely vile. I had to try each colour just to make sure and rest assured, they are all equally disgusting. Thankfully my lovely friends [who have earnt serious brownie points] were waiting for me at the pub with a pint of pear cider so I packed up with my tail between my legs, put it down to the weather and sunk a few instead. For those of you who were down the park, here are some pictures of the stall:

Stall
All this lovely weather has got me thinking about how lucky I am to be at home actively seeking work and it’s all I can do to keep myself from writing smug comments next to friends Facebook updates about how trapped they are in the office. Today, I thought I’d take my laptop outside and write this article in the garden. It was a good idea in theory apart from the fact that I couldn’t see the screen and an annoying child was playing swingball next door. There were building works going on two doors along, a dog pining for its owners and then the dustmen have arrived. So I’ve returned indoors, but none of this will spoil my smug, zen-like state of mind.

Today I’m thinking about the birds and the bees and, no, it’s not going to be that kind of article but one about urban beekeeping. Have I lost you all now? As my partner Matt is the son of a beekeeper, I have started to learn a thing or two about these furry little insects and as some of you probably already know, they are the bees knees – excuse the pun but it’s been estimated that the honeybee contributes around £150m annually to the economy and that without them the food chain would collapse.
Although the number of honeybees have fallen drastically in recent years, urban beekeeping is getting very trendy so hopefully us city folk will keep them going… even if does mean a new breed of bees who’ll have blackened lungs and live in fear of being mugged. I hope those Queen bees get streetwise quickly and adopt phrases like ‘girlfriend, you aint stealing my honey’ otherwise there’s no hope for them. In fact, honey is thought to taste better and be more varied in urban areas because the bees have a greater diversity of trees and flowers. Places like Fortnum and Mason have got in on the act and have set up rooftop hives in Piccadilly and Samuel L Jackson bought Scarlett Johansson a beehive for a wedding present. A proper beehive, not a hairdo, that is.

I have to say, I didn’t really get how you’d even begin to go about keeping bees in the city. After all, if you’re lucky enough to have any outside space it’s probably just about big enough to swing a cat, let alone a beehive. But it is doable and help is at hand.

Rooftop-Bees

Omlet is one company who have caught on to the trend in urban beekeeping. They’re probably called that because they make funky chicken houses too [eggs – omelette]. They’ve updated the classic beehive and created the uber-cool ‘Beehaus’, a plastic horizontal hive which comes in a variety of bright colours. I saw it at the Design Museum recently and it resembles a giant coolbox on stilts. Omlet can supply everything you need to set yourself up for £495 [that includes the incredibly sexy yet chic astronaut with veil outfit]. You’ll then need to buy the main stars of the show – the bees – which cost an extra £80-150 per colony. From this they estimate that you’ll get around 50+ jars of homemade honey a year.

Honey

But before you dive in headfirst, remember that you kind of need to know what you’re doing with bees so have a think about whether it’s right for you.

Firstly, location, location, location. Rooftops are ideal but if you’ve got a garden, your best bet is to put your beehive by a hedge or fence. Apparently this stops the furry ones from flying smack into the wind and rain.
Secondly, it’s worth investing in a beekeeping course so you can learn the tricks of the trade. Check out the short courses on the Omlet website as they run courses all over the country. You can also get lots of useful info on The British Beekeepers Association.

Thirdly, You really can keep bees in a small city garden but unless you want a visit from Neighbourhood Watch, it’s probably a good idea to have a chat with your neighbours first and let them know your plans. Also choose bees with a nice temper or you won’t be invited to any street parties. Remember too that although bees aren’t that aggressive, you’re likely to get a few stings along the way. If you’re allergic to bee stings this probably isn’t the hobby for you. Apparently they don’t like shiny jewellery either so leave the bling indoors.

Bees

Finally, bees don’t take up much time at all so you can be as busy as a bee [had to be done] and still have time for your new hobby. You’ll need to spend about half an hour each week with your new furry friends but unlike other pets, you can still go on holiday and leave them to it. They’ll hardly notice you’re gone. Charming I’m sure.

Till next week honeys. – Valerie. x

Author: Rohini Wahi

Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.

She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at mail@rohiniwahi.com

3 Comments on Urban Beekeeping, The New Buzz on the Street.

  1. Clare
    Monday, April 19th, 2010 15:01 at 3:01 pm (11 years ago)

    I know exactly what you’re talking about – we run a boutique in the Scottish Borders and some days those customers just ain’t biting. Don’t give up though – your stall looks beautiful and being run off your feet on an unexpectedly busy day is a great feeling! Urban beekeeping sounds like a excellent idea if you’re brave enough – did you see those amazing bee-themed windows Anthropologie did last year to raise awareness of colony collapse syndrome?

  2. Angela
    Monday, April 19th, 2010 20:40 at 8:40 pm (11 years ago)

    Yes, the stall looks delicious even if sales didn’t take off.
    Loving the bee keeping idea – will forward on to a friend who has just taken the plunge with chickens – think this will be right up her street.

  3. Mel
    Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 17:45 at 5:45 pm (11 years ago)

    I was one of the lucky few who stumbled across your beautiful stall (the most impressive in the hall might I add!) and I am now the proud owner of the blue tea cup/ posie featured in the photo above! I also loved the vintage tin plaques but am gutted as I think the one I bought managed to make it into the bin along with the tissue paper (and you had wrapped it all so lovingly too!). Anyway, you’ll have to keep us posted about your next market and I’ll be front of the queue… Am sure as the word spreads you’ll get tons more customers.

    Thanks for enlightening me about the urban bee scene too – soiunds like a real buzz (sorry!)

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