Does Central London Have Too Many Bees?

Covered in bees.

The bee population of central London has more than doubled in four years, from 1,618 registered colonies in 2008 to 3,337 today, according to the London Beekeepers Association (LBKA). That organisation has now said that we might have too many bees, contrary to the usual messages of apian doom.

InMidtown — a group promoting business in the Holborn, Bloomsbury and St Giles area — is one of the key players in this superaddition. According to the BBC, it has prompted a 40% rise in London honey production in the past year, by encouraging businesses to set up rooftop colonies. This contrasts with the situation across England and Wales for the same period, which has seen a 50% reduction on an average year.

Surely the boost in London numbers has to be a good thing, right? Well, it depends who you talk to.

London Wildlife Trust approves of the development, saying it is really encouraged by InMidtown’s scheme. But LBKA are less sure, dismissing the project as “bee bling”, and emphasising that increased foliage is what’s really needed. ”We may have too many bees in London,” says LBKA secretary Angela Woods. “We are consulting environmental organisations and academics to look at ways to get credible data to find out what’s really happening.”

And that’s the crux of it. As yet, there’s no actual data to support the “too many bees” position, and this remains (no doubt well-informed) speculation on the part of LBKA. We’d appreciate any insights from beekeepers in the comments.

Image by SabineTheole in the Londonist Flickr pool.

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  • Angela Woods

    David Aston, who is also the Chair of the British Beekeepers Association quotes in his book, Keeping Healthy Bees, that a colony needs 120kgs of nectar, 20-30kgs of pollen annually so if that amount of planting has been done then these bees should be fine. I would like to politely correct your article … honey yields in the South East and London decreased to an all time low last year to 20lbs a hive and given a colony needs 35lbs just to survive the winter this is a worry. This organisation may have had an increase with thier own hives but that is not the trend. Also, the 37lbs they quote .. how many hives is this across?
    Angela Woods, LBKA

  • Mark

    The increase in the number of colonies, not just in London, but throughout the whole of the country, is down to the British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) campaign. The one that told us that the Honeybee was in danger of becoming extinct and claimed (inaccuratly it has to be said) that Albert Einstein said that because bees pollenate one third of the food we consume the human race was also in danger.

    It was the subsequent interest from a concerned population, that would not normally see keeping bees as a hobby, which has lead to the dramatic increase in bee keeping, both in London and elsewhere.

    I think it a little unfair to link, albeit teniously, a company which has added little to the ‘overal’ growth in bee colony numbers, than the BBKA of which the LBKA, who let it be said, has done much to promote.

    I write this as a ‘hobbyist’ bee keeper and someone has seen first-hand the dramatic rise in interest in bee keeping. Also, I would like to see some balance given to the debate. Things, as always, are not as thay might first seem. There is more to this, one only needs to ask the right people the right questions.