The buzz around town: How one man made urban living a real honey trap for bees

 

t's amazing. When I started eight or nine years ago, I kept trying to talk to people about it and no one was even slightly interested." Luke Dixon, urban beekeeper, laughs as he tries to explain his joy and astonishment at finding the rest of the world suddenly fascinated by his solitary hobby.

In the wake of global concerns about hive decline, Dixon reckons, the British public have woken up to bee appeal. "And they have all kinds of questions. They are amazed there are beehives in towns. Where are they? And where are all the bees? They want to know if the honey is polluted, is it full of smoke and smog, which of course it isn't. And the most important question: do you get stung?"

The answers to all these questions and more are in Dixon's excellent new book, Keeping Bees in Towns and Cities (£14.99, Timber). From Hong Kong to Harvard, Kyoto to Los Angeles, Dixon has found beehives and bees, often with a distinct regional twist. A traditional Japanese beehive, for example, has an unmistakable flavour of the temple pagoda about it; one in Tucson, Arizona, a touch of Donald Judd. But all have one thread in common: the sheer delight of keeping bees.

"You have to work at the pace of the bees," Dixon says, "at the speed they'll allow you to work. You notice the weather and the seasons in a much more acute way once you keep bees. And it is endlessly fascinating, sitting at the front of the hive, watching them go in and out, and wondering just how they do it."

Despite his apiarist tendencies, Dixon is a theatre director by day job. "I've spent my entire life since school working in the theatre. Dark places, with other human beings." But he hankered, like most of us, for a bit of fresh air and some sort of connection with the natural world. Living in central London, Dixon set his heart on beehives.

Riding around London on his scooter, he ended up convincing the Natural History Museum to let him place hives in their wildlife garden. Then followed other enthusiastic takers, including the London College of Fashion, the National Magazines Company, LSE and even Kensington Palace. "Companies are motivated by their greening policies. They come and say, 'OK, we've changed all the lightbulbs, what can we do next?'"

For some companies, it's had unexpected bonuses. The Lancaster Hotel, overlooking Hyde Park, had Dixon's biggest-yielding hive this year, with an astonishing 80kg of honey. "I had to go down and help as it had grown so tall! And now Hyde Park is full of conkers, which wouldn't have existed without the visits of the bees, and guests can eat their Hyde Park honey and toast looking out over this autumnal scene."

But beekeeping is not always joyful. "It can be heartbreaking," Dixon says. "About two weeks ago, one of the hives on the roof of the headquarters of Ted Baker was decimated by wasps. Wasps are always a worry at the end of the season, and in a single week they destroyed the colony. The poor staff team were really upset because they'd never seen it before."

So what does Dixon think about recent news reports that urban bees are making less honey as they compete with other city hives? He sighs. "My take is that it's unsubstantiated," he says. "Yields are down everywhere, because the weather has been so foul this year. Most of the bees in London forage on trees. The two main flavours of London honey are lime and chestnut. One decent chestnut tree is the size of a 10-storey building, which could feed any number of hives. And there are 135,000 trees in the London Royal Parks alone!"

So I guess I just have that one final question: do you get stung? At which he laughs. "Of course you do!"

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?