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Two beekeepers remove a honeycomb from a hive
Photograph: Nina Gallant Photography

Why bees are 2022’s must-have accessory

Bees have been in decline for decades, but several European cities are determined to change all that

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson

Bees are in trouble. We all know that. Climate change and dodgy agriculture has caused UK populations to drop by more than 50 percent since 1985. In the USA, meanwhile, the number of bee colonies per hectare has fallen a whopping 90 percent since 1962. And that’s important because? Well, bees pollinate 70 of the 100 crop species that feed the majority of humans. Without them, basically, we wouldn’t have food.

So it’s fortunate that cities around the world are stepping up to boost bee numbers, with hives popping up on rooftops and bus stops and in community gardens. Gorazd Trušnovec heads up the Urban Beekeepers’ Association in Slovenian capital Ljubljana. Around a decade ago, several hives were installed on top of Cankarjev Dom, the city’s largest cultural complex. Since then, he says, around 150 companies and individuals have also set up hives, housing 200,000 bee colonies.

‘If the city is bee-friendly, it’s also a more pleasant place to live for humans,’ Trušnovec says. ‘We also try to raise awareness that we’re all part of nature, and cities can be even more biodiverse than the countryside.’

Urban beekeeping is also taking off in Paris. Private firms like Apiterra support big companies to attract bees to their roofs, with more than 2,500 hives registered as of last year. And in London, organisations like Bermondsey Street Bees (BSB) are advising communities on how to keep bees in the heart of the city, as well as producing honey for restaurants and chefs.

But while this is all positive, some experts have warned that it’s no good unless the amount of bee-friendly vegetation increases too. As Sarah Wyndham Lewis of BSB says, ‘London has, by a factor of three, the highest population of honeybees anywhere in Europe, set against a background of rapidly shrinking green space.’ To make sure its bees have plenty of room to forage, BSB is moving them to brownfield sites in the city’s Docklands. 

Alvéole, which maintains hives across the USA, donates a percentage of its profits to wildflower-planting schemes, as should all bee farmers. As long as cities plant greenery at the same pace as they set up hives, they could soon be getting a whole lot buzzier.

Did you see every new building in this UK city now has to feature ‘beehive bricks’?

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