Registered beehives in the capital’s gardens and on rooftops have reached 5,500, compared with nearly 1,700 in 2008. As there is no obligation for beekeepers to have their hives registered, the figure is likely to be even higher.
Membership of beekeepers’ associations has also increased, with waiting lists to join and a surge in demand for training. Such an increase means London now has the densest population of honeybees in Europe.
Mark Patterson, forage officer for the London Beekeepers’ Association, said: “We’re seeing more members signing up to local associations across London, the highest number in years.
“I know some associations have closed or restricted membership as they couldn’t cope with the influx of newcomers wanting to learn how to keep their own bees.
“Beekeeping is escapism for city dwellers — some take it up because they want to live the good life and be more self-sufficient. It’s also an interesting hobby to immerse yourself in.”
A growing number of businesses are also joining the urban beekeeping trend. The Hilton London Bankside has installed four hives in a rooftop meadow and has been harvesting honey since 2016. The hotel, which works with local producer Bermondsey Street Bees, is supplied with 70kg of honey each year from the hives. Its chefs use it to make honey bread and muesli as well as dishes on the main menu.
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Beekeeper Dale Gibson said: “As a result of these innovative, sustainable actions, the Hilton London Bankside bees have thrived — as healthy, calm and productive bees.
“The honey yields from these four hives have been impressive — once again in 2019 — with the rooftop honey being celebrated by the chefs in the OXBO restaurant and mixologists at the Distillery Bar as a quality food product.”
A spokeswoman for the hotel said: “The productive use of its open spaces is part of Hilton London Bankside’s campaign to help maintain a sustainable London.”