Homeowners and apartment dwellers on both sides of the Atlantic are dipping into the yummy hives of bees.
While Homesteaders on our own turf continue to battle it out over naming rights, urban nature dwellers in Britain are taking “local” and “self-sufficiency” to new heights: their rooftops. It’s a trend that’s migrating stateside, but remember you heard it here first. We’re calling it Chim Chimney Beekeeping®.
As a thank you for reading us each day, you’re free to dump the ®.
Here’s how it all started.
In 2008, the British Beekeepers Association reported that the UK bee population had plummeted by as much as a third, citing causes like parasites, insecticides, loss of flowering plants and pollution. In the United States, meanwhile, we’ve been scratching our heads at the mysterious disappearance of bees as well, a condition that we’ve dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder.
It’s a very serious problem worldwide as bees are responsible for pollinating about a third of the world’s food supply. Unless we want to subsist on wind-pollinated foods like wheat, rice, oats and acorns, we need them in our backyards.
The English, renowned for their stiff upper lips, best foot forward, and superlative gardens, have responded by cultivating thriving Chim Chimney Beekeeping communities. UK-wide, there’s an estimated 274,000 bee colonies that produce more than 6000 tons of honey each year with some 44,000 beekeepers managing them; the biggest buzz, though, is happening in London.
According to the British Beekeepers Association, the number of registered Chim Chimney Beekeepers in central London has more than doubled within the past couple of years. There are over 2,500 hives and more than 700 beekeepers. The posh are in on it (the queen’s bees are kept at Buckingham Palace) as well as the middle class, who keep bees in allotments and on rooftops. The enthusiasm for London beekeeping and the resulting honey (considered to be among the best in the world) has prompted annual festivals, international beehive design competitions, eco products, and amendments to the school curriculum.
The Chim Chimney swarm has become so avid that last year the North London Beekeepers Association had to start turning away members. The Guardian calls it the latest environmental movement; we’re calling it the new chicken coop.
Stateside, a city ordinance banning Chim Chimney Beekeeping in New York was overturned last year. Now more than 100 people are keeping hives of their own. Queens, in particular, has become the city’s honey haven having hosted the first ever inter-borough honey festival in the Rockaways last month.
Hoteliers in Boston have also taken it up. The InterContinental Boston houses about 120,000 honeybees on their rooftop apiary. And in Chicago, there are about 4,000 registered beekeepers.
From our vantage, the Chim Chimney trend is one to watch. It’s beneficial to urban dwellers as it’s a kind of Zen and the Art of Beekeeping pursuit. More importantly, it’s good for the bees. City pollinators fare better than rural ones because of the increased range of forage and relative lack of pesticides. It just might be the solution to our global bee conundrum.