My evening with the bees
It’s safe to say, I was mostly looking forward to the sight of myself in a full blown beekeeper costume (and of course, the ‘ Instagramable’ moments I was certain I would have that close to a hive!) but, it turns out that learning about bees was something I wish I had done sooner.
We all arrived at The Skip Garden on a warm Summer’s evening, eager to learn, albeit slightly nervous knowing we would be very close to 5000 buzzers who wouldn’t think twice about stinging us to protect their home. We started with a short theory session lead by Brian the Beekeeper, who told us all about pollination, the important relationship between bees and plants and what we could expect from our evening with the Queen and her faithful workers. I enjoyed listening and asking questions – I had no idea just how intelligent bees (especially Honey Bees) are and the nerd in me found enjoyment in all this newfound knowledge.
Next up – the much anticipated bee suits! We all ‘suited up’ from head to toe including protective gloves and made our way up a wooden ladder to the hive on the roof. Even a few steps away from the hive, you could hear the busy bees hard at work… Brian lifted off the layers of the hive piece by piece and it wasn’t long until we spotted the Queen herself – reigning casually over her bustling kingdom. All the theory we had learnt a bit earlier in the evening could now be applied as we saw the bees in action – and what a wonderful way to learn!
For me, the highlight was seeing the waggle dance – bees use this to communicate precise messages to each other and it was incredible to see. They work closely together, sharing the load and all for the same purpose – perhaps humans could learn a few things from our furry, stripey friends.
All in all, I learnt so much and will think twice now about panicking when a bee lands on my drink… I have a newfound respect for bees and a little bond I forged that evening when they kindly let me into their busy home.
Written by Sian Charlish
What a great way to connect the people in the King’s Cross area with their urban bee neighbours. The Kings Cross Bee Trail created by the Honey Club partners is a fun way to get across a big message.
Our urban pollinators need places to live, eat and work, just as much as the human inhabitants of the new King’s Cross area.
By using the app and walking the trail visitors will see the plants that have been designed into this new urban landscape and learn how those spaces have been carefully designed for our enjoyment but are also important for bees and other urban insects. By taking part in citizen’s science and counting bees at some of the stops along the trail, people can start to understand how urban areas can provide a rich source of food for a variety of bumblebees, solitary bees and honeybees and are valuable habitat for wild bees and other pollinators to flourish.
This is good for us because the bees pollinate while they feed. This is a valuable and necessary service that the flowers need and can’t do themselves. The bees fertilise the flowers to produce seeds, fruits and nuts which are vital food for many more urban dwellers who we share our cities with, including song birds, squirrels and other insects.
The Honey Club is a collaboration of effort and by effectively working together (and with many supporters across King’s Cross) it’s produced an app that not only raises awareness about bees and adds to our knowledge of what bees are foraging in the King’s Cross area, it will help to create more bee friendly neighbourhoods in other cities.
We have already been contacted by people in other cities, here and abroad, that want to know more about the bee trail app and how they can do more back home to help bees and other pollinators.
We, at Urban Bees, are very happy to be part of the King’s Cross Honey Club and promoting the bee-friendly message far and wide.
Brian McCallum, Urban Bees
Photography by Alison Haigh
The Honey Club is excited to announce the launch of the Kings Cross Bee Trail App, which goes live Wednesday 5th August.
On my first visit to the old Skip Garden site. I knew almost nothing about bees let alone of the honey kind. However, the level of enthusiasm within the Honey Club led me to explore what all the fuss was about.
I soon learned that bees don’t act as one, but as a collective. A 50,000 strong colony is like mega-organism, within which every member plays a specific role that they’re perfectly suited for. In order to maintain their survival.
The more I learned my fascination grew. I couldn’t comprehend that a Queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day. Their importance isn’t fully appreciated, having learned that Worker bees pollinate a third of the food that we eat.
However what interested me the most was the ominous “buzzing” sound they created in the hive. They constantly vibrate their wings at a particular frequency that’s audible for us to hear.
Months of research, drawing, modelling and planning permission has led towards designing something unique. I thought of using their “buzzing” sound to connect people to the bees.
On top of a portacabin roof in the new Skip Garden site. I’m currently building a massive sound horn that extends from inside a bee hive and amplifies the buzzing created by the bees. Outside the portacabin you’ll be able to hear a colony in action.
Also, a sound capsule that extends from another bee hive overthrown edge of the portacabin to ground level will create a unique experience.
Derived from the shape of a queen cell, you’ll be able to sit inside this dark and cramped space. You’ll literally feel like you’re in a bee hive as you hear the echoes of the busy bees.
Soon enough, members of the Honey Club and those who visit the Skip Garden can come and experience my project for themselves!
Richard Aina, The Bartlett School of Architecture
The new Kings Cross Swimming Pond is now open for the summer, the UK’s first ever man-made fresh water bathing pond right in the centre of the Kings Cross development site. Just behind it you may notice some quirky looking structures going up and a couple of skips….
The Skip Garden has finally moved into its new home and what a great site it is. The Honey Club wanted to celebrate the bees new home, so we invited a few Honey Club members and friends to share some stories, news, ideas and some delicious food and wine.
The Bartlett School of Architecture have been working on the design for the new buildings in the garden, a bee hive gramophone for one! The structures weren’t quite finished when we had the event, but we were really lucky to see the work in progress and cant wait to see the finished result.
We held a bee hotel workshop for the generators and some of the young guests, this started out with six of us using small hacksaws to chop green bamboo – kindly donated by Des Smith, at Willerby Landscapes – into 15cm tubes without any nodules. This was quite time consuming! There’s certainly a knack to it.
Making bee hotels provides space for cavity-nesting solitary bees, like the Red Mason bee, (Osmia bicornis) and Leaf-cutter bees (Megachile centuncularis) to nest in. They are called solitary bees because they make individual nest cells for their larvae. In the UK, there are more than 200 different species of solitary bee. These wild bees are docile and safe around children and pets. Like all species of bees, they are important pollinators so we want to increase habitat and forage for them in King’s Cross, starting at the Skip Garden.
How to Make a Bee Hotel:
Bundles of hollow bamboo – different species of solitary bees need holes from 4-10mm.
2litre plastic bottles with the tops cut off
1. Use the hacksaw to cut the bamboo into aprox 15cm pieces, you want the lengths of the bamboo to be a few cm shorter than the bottle to protect them from the rain. Bees can’t burrow through the knots in bamboo so cut in between the nodules (knots). Make sure one end of the bamboo is open. The other could be closed off by the knot.
2. Use sandpaper to smooth the ends of the bamboo as bees are put off by sharp edges.
3. Use the scalpel to make two small holes in the plastic bottle and thread twine through so will be able to hang up the finished hotel.
4. Carefully pack the bottles tightly with the bamboo tubes – the open end facing out.
5. Attach firmly to an open sunny wall, at least 1 metre off the ground, protected from rain and wind. (Bees won’t use it if it’s swinging around or the entrance is blocked by an overhanging tree or dappled light)
6. Wait for solitary bees to find it and start laying their eggs in the tubes. You know it’s been used when tubes are sealed with mud or chewed leaves.
7. Next spring, look to see if new bees are emerging.
Olivia Saponaro, Wolff Olins
Alison Benjamin, Urban Bees