Hackney residents become busy bees and get a taste of honey

18:10 13 June 2011

Rosie Boycott and  bee-keeping trainer Gustavo  Montes De Oca from the Golden Company looking at bee colonies at St Mary

Rosie Boycott and bee-keeping trainer Gustavo Montes De Oca from the Golden Company looking at bee colonies at St Mary's Secret Garden

James O Jenkins

An innovative campaign has been launched to encourage people to become bee friendly and help boost London’s bee population.

Rosie Boycott, the chairwoman of London Food, donned a beekeeper’s protective gear to inspect an urban beehive today at St Mary’s Secret Garden, off Kingsland Road. She also tasted honey from Haggerston Honey from the hives at Hackney City Farm, as well as some produced at Liverpool Street.

She was joined by Gustavo Montes De Oca, who is a bee-keeping trainer from the Golden Company, a Hackney social enterprise which works with young people to make honey.

She said: “The crops which are being planted need bees for pollination so now is the perfect time to adopt bee-friendly behaviours.”

Bees help pollinate least 30 percent of the food crops we consume and one in three mouthfuls of the food we eat is dependent on pollination.

Bee and insect pollination contributes around £430m a year to the economy.

But a third of Britain’s bee colonies was wiped out during the winter of 2009/10, making cities havens for bees as they have warmer climates and agricultural chemicals are used less in cities.

London Food and Mayor Boris Johnson are campaigning to encourage more people to get in a buzz about bees.

Four Hackney groups have won prizes in the Capital Growth bee competition. They won training, hives, equipment and a spring bee colony next year and will act as ‘bee ambassadors’ to get other people growing plants which are attractive to bees and even to keep their own bees.

Growing Communities, which already has three food growing sites in Hackney, will keep bees at their new site in the garden of St Mary’s church. The Future Laboratory will have a bee hive at Elder Street in Shoreditch where it is renovating a derelict building with an overgrown, unused courtyard to create a kitchen and dining area and will grow their own fruit and veg. Homerton based mental health charity Core Arts teaches gardening skills to some of its 300 members and will now keeps bees to complement their gardening.

And the London College of Fashion has designs on a bee hive at an allotment created on derelict land at the college in Mare Street.

In addition, creative team LIDA, part of M&C Saatchi, have redesigned original artwork by cult artist Magnus Muhr, known for his imagery of dead flies. The eye-catching campaign instead uses images of dead bee and simple line drawings to highlight the plight of London’s bee population. The artwork shows bees on a drip, on a stretcher and in a hospital bed. The ‘bee-movies’ show bees taking part in everyday London-based adventures which put them in peril, such as cleaning a window or travelling on the Tube.

It’s hoped the images will encourage people to come to the rescue of bees by growing your bee-friendly food including fruit trees, tomatoes and soft fruits, shopping for bee-friendly foods such as locally sourced honey or organically farmed crops and choosing bee-friendly gardening by minimising use of pesticides.

Details of getting involved are at


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