What is LSE Bees?
LSE Bees is run by the LSE Estates Division Sustainability team and works in partnership with the LSE SU Beekeeping Society. As you may have guessed, we keep bees on the LSE campus. The initiative began in 2011 out of a Sustainable Projects Fund grant from LSE and has also received support from the Annual Fund and Activities Fund. Currently we have four thriving hives on the roof of Connaught House, one of which we are planning to move to Passfield Hall in Spring 2017.
What do you do?
We work with a professional beekeeper, Dr Luke Dixon of Urban & Community Beekeeping, to maintain and develop our hives. We also sell LSE honey, spread awareness about bees, and organise events like honey tasting and bake sales.
Sounds great. How can LSE students get involved?
Consider joining the LSESU Beekeeping Society. It’s just £1.50 for a whole year’s membership! This funding allows us to buy necessary supplies such as protective suits (for us) and winter feed (for the bees). You can join at time; your membership will be valid till the end of the current academic year.
Hmm, so I have to shell out £1.50… Is it worth it?
Do I need to have any prior beekeeping experience to join?
None at all! Most of us had zero experience with bees before we joined the society, but if you attend hive visits regularly, by the end of the year you’ll be inspecting hives and harvesting honey like a pro.
When and where do you meet?
We meet on Wednesdays at 3 pm on the roof of Connaught House – take the lift to level 8, then walk up the last flight of stairs. Here’s a map to help you find us. We meet every week in spring and summer, and less frequently (fortnightly or monthly) in autumn and winter. Society members get notifications about our next hive visit via email and some events are also publicised on our Facebook page.
I’m not free on Wednesday afternoons. Do you meet at any other time?
Nearly all our hive visits are on Wednesday afternoons (except for a very few cases when there are special circumstances). However some of our other events, like the honey tasting and sale, do take place on other days of the week.
Do I need to bring anything when I come for a hive visit?
You don’t need to bring anything – we have protective suits which you can borrow. But feel free to bring a camera if you want to take photos.
Will I get to taste LSE Honey?
Where does the honey come from?
The honey comes wholly from our hives on the roof of Connaught House in Central London.
What does it taste like?
Some commercially available honey is monofloral, i.e. predominantly from the nectar of one plant species. Most varieties of supermarket honey are also ‘blended’, i.e. comes from hives all over the world. We have nothing against ethically-produced monofloral honey (in fact there are some varieties we like a lot!) but our own bees are free to fly around London and pick what flowers they want to forage on. Having said that, due to the abundance of lime trees in Central London, our honey has a lovely, light, citrusy flavour.
Where do the bees forage?
The typical foraging distance for European honey bees is believed to be around 3 km, though Beekman and Ratnieks (2000) found bees routinely flying over 6 km and sometimes over 10 km from their hives. But even with a conservative 3 km estimate, as you can see from the map below, our bees can collect nectar from as far afield as St James’s Park, Green Park, Regent’s Park and even Hyde Park.
Is the honey ethically produced?
Absolutely. This is what our professional beekeeper, Dr Luke Dixon, has to say:
We don’t keep bees to be producers of honey, though we do harvest a sustainable amount from strong colonies. Primarily the purpose of our beekeeping is to support the declining pollinator population and the richness of biodiversity in the city. At all times we follow current best practice and advice from the National Bee Unit.
Do pollution and traffic fumes affect the quality of urban honey?
On the contrary, it is likely that urban bees make better honey! The European Environment Agency confirms that ‘city traffic fumes and pollution do not harm the bees or their honey’ because in the process of converting nectar to honey, the bees filter out heavy metals and other pollutants. A study by a French beekeepers’ association found that bees reared in cities are healthier and more productive than their country cousins, largely due to the use of pesticides and monoculture which are both more prevalent in the countryside. However, this does not mean that there are no downsides to urban beekeeping: a 2013 study found that traffic fumes can affect bees ability to find food.
My honey has crystallised, what should I do?!
Don’t worry, crystallisation is entirely normal and does not mean the honey has gone bad. Decrystallising it is very simple; we have a detailed post (with pics) which shows you what to do.