Pet of the week: The bee

What's the buzz? This summer, if you want to get a low-maintenance "pet" with a free spirit who won't constantly be craving affection, then you need to start considering taking up beekeeping. Natural colonies in the wild have been all but wiped out, and whole species are under attack from a mite with a name more becoming of a cartoon villain – the Varroa Mite. Add to this the allegedly harmful effects of pesticides used in intensive farming, which get fed back into the hives, and it is easy to see how the bee population has been whittled away. It is only thanks to the efforts of beekeepers around the country that we have any bees in Britain at all. A sobering thought.

So, how can we help? Bees form such a vital link in the food chain, that it seems absurd not to get involved. The best thing to do would be to start by learning how to keep bees and eventually acquire a colony of bees that are happy to go out pollinating all day and make honey. But I realise that this does not seem practical for many urban dwellers. Having said this, we should all take heart from Steve Benbow of the London Honey Company ( who has devoted his time to bees and honey production in the capital. He produces honey for Fortnum & Mason and has set up a colony on the roof of the Piccadilly emporium (you can follow the hive's progress and watch more "Bee" movies at his website).

Fascinating creatures, aren't they? The caste system that has evolved within the hive is nothing short of mind-boggling. The single queen develops from a few of the many thousand female larvae that may exist in a large colony. Natural selection determines which of these queens is to be the new heir to the throne when the old queen gets tired of opening hospital wings and knighting rock stars. The larva is fed on copious amounts of royal jelly, whereupon she reaches sexual maturity and produces millions of eggs which keep the colony alive. And so on. It is the job of the male simply to mate with the queen bee then, in a move that would no doubt have cheered Andrea Dworkin, to get chased away from the colony to die in exile having served their purpose.

What else? According to Dr Ivor Davis, advisor to the British Beekeepers' Association, they have amazing navigational instincts – once they have found a food source, they relay this to other bees by performing a "waggle dance" which telegraphs its co-ordinates. Oh, and they are amazingly fuel-efficient; a bee could fly round the world on just one ounce of honey. Fact.

And what's the difference between a bumble bee and a honey bee? Bumble bees – the plumper, furry ones – belong to a colony that only survives one summer, then dies, leaving just a few queens to hibernate throughout winter before emerging to build up new colonies. Honey bee colonies can live for many years. They spend the summer making honey to provide them with enough food to last the winter. According to Dr Davis, when honey is harvested from a hive, humans take about 20 per cent of their annual haul, so there's plenty left for the bees.

So how can we best encourage bees into our lives? By planting single-flowering plants and vegetables – alliums, all types of mint, beans and flowering herbs. Daisy-shaped flowers such as asters and sunflowers, also tall plants – hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves.

How do I get hold of a bee? Visit

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits