Urban beekeeping is new buzz
MORE people in Nottingham are getting a buzz from beekeeping.
Would-be urban beekeepers are flocking to take courses in how to rear the insects in a city setting.
Hive of activity: City bee expert Keith Cosgrove. postphoto C201009DM3-3
Stonebridge City Farm, in St Ann's, says there are enough people interested to fill two years' worth of courses.
And the farm's beekeeper Keith Cosgrove hopes to 'flood' Nottingham with a race of native honeybees, which are now scarce.
"There's a huge interest in beekeeping at the moment," said Keith, who has been keeping bees since 1976, the same year he joined the Nottinghamshire Beekeepers' Association.
"In the 80s and 90s there were about 50 members of Notts Beekeepers, but there must be about 200 now."
People often assume it is best to keep a hive in the countryside.
But bees reared in cities are said to be not only healthier but produce more and better honey.
Honey tastes different depending on which flowers the bees have gathered the nectar from.
Lime blossom is renowned for creating particularly tasty honey, and there are lots of lime trees planted to form boulevards on Nottingham streets, and at Wollaton Park.
"I can tell when they've been foraging on limes just by tasting it," said Keith. "Oil seed rape [which bees forage on in the countryside] tastes very different.
"We've also got some very dark honey in the city. It has a very strong taste, and I don't know where that comes from. There's some light honey in the city which comes from rosebay willowherb [a weed], where land has been turned over."
As lime trees are a big source of nectar, Keith says urban bees have always been more productive.
And a study by French beekeepers' association Unaf found that urban bees enjoy higher temperatures and a wider variety of plant life for pollination, while avoiding ill-effects of pesticides.
At the same time they can filter out city pollution such as exhaust fumes.
These factors are thought to make them healthier and more productive than their country cousins.
The beekeeping courses at Stonebridge have been funded by a lottery grant, and Keith hopes to get more funding to start the native bee project.
It would involve creating a centre for breeding native queens at Stonebridge.
"One of my interests is selective Queen raising, because you can breed characteristics into them," said Keith, who is also a member of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association (BiBBA).
Preferable characteristics include bees less likely to sting, with disease resistance, improved honey production and calmness within combs.