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Saving the bees from extinction is a lifelong mission for many. The most popular way in London: Urban Beekeeping

By Kristina Volk

Camilla Goddard is picking up a honeybee which was about to sneak back into the hive and shows it to her excited class. Goddard runs urban beekeeping workshops around London, and like in this one at the St. Ermin’s Hotel near St James Park, she can observe a massive boost in interest amongst Londoners.

Not only has the interest in her workshop increased over the last five years but Goddard has observed a significant change in the demographic of those who attend. “It used to be older guys, then it became environmental people as they became concerned about climate change and now there are a lot more women. Half or more of my class are women now.”

International protection for bees

“Bees under Siege”-Report. Info graphic by Kristina Volk

The increasing interest in beekeeping and especially urban beekeeping is not exclusively confined to London; it follows a worldwide trend. The number of beehives is steadily increasing in and outside cities. According to UN figures, the number of beehives around the globe jumped from 79 million in 2010 to 91 million in 2017.

The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) “Bees Under Siege” report, published in May, shows that this trend is vital to the survival of bees. It not only stresses the importance of bees, which “maintain the reproductive success of wild flowers and the yields of crops we eat” but also reveals that a shocking amount of bees in Britain are already extinct. Seventeen of the 250 species buzzing around Britain have, according to the WWF report, irreversibly vanished from the British ecosystem.

The United Nations: protection the world’s bees

Raising awareness about this pressing bee emergency lies at the heart of UN World Bee Day, which coincided with the WWF report.

Riccardo Jannoni-Sabastianini of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation welcomes the shift in perception towards beekeeping. Since environmental preservation is now part of the hipster lifestyle, beekeeping has become the popular hobby of an entirely new demographic.

Newest Trend: Beekeeping

It is a trend that supposedly supports the survival of the bees but also gives reason for concern. “Beekeeping is the new yoga,” says Karl Coyler, of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA). But he said people “all too often forget that they are dealing with living, sensitive animals.”

Coyler supports new beekeepers not only with materials but also advice and support throughout the bee year. A similar approach is taken by Goddard, who offers education about honeybees and their buzzing relatives, in addition to hands-on experience at the hotel’s own beehives.

Urban Beekeeping above London’s roofs: Camilla Goddard teaching participants of her workshop how to handle bees with care.
Photo by Kristina Volk

City dwellers like Jonny Lyness learn in Goddard’s workshops everything they need to start their own beehives at home. The beekeeper’s passion for the tiny insects clearly transfers to her participants.

Besides the in-depth knowledge about bee communication (they dance to show the direction and distance to the best pollen out there), Goddard’s love inspires young and old to join the community of beekeepers.

Lyness, who attended with his partner to learn more about the insects, left the workshop determined to start his own little beekeeping business. “It is absolutely mad how smart these tiny insects are. They build all sorts of things and work together like a family,” he said.

Goddard, Coyler and Jannoni-Sabastianini have dedicated their lives to saving bees and sharing their love and passion for the insects with the wider population.

Bees in Kew Gardens.
Photo by Kristina Volk

Jannoni-Sabastianini stresses that this task is vital to the survival of humanity: “Bees pollinate around four fifths of the fruit and vegetables that we eat. The decline of bees is therefore bound to have extremely serious consequences on food security levels.”