Battersea Bees Thrive At The Children's Zoo

As apiary manager successfully adds a small swarm colony

One of the honey bee hives. Picture: Battersea Park Children's Zoo

Earlier this Spring Battersea Park’s Children’s Zoo announced the opening of its educational apiary, in partnership with the London Beekeepers’ Association.

A whole new area is now home to western honey bee hives which are maintained by a dedicated team from the Beekeepers Association. And this month the Zoo’s apiary manager undertook a particularly important maintenance task when she mixed a small swarm colony, which didn’t have a queen, with one of the Zoo’s established colonies, complete with its queen.

Apiary manager Annie started by slowly placing the new bees into the top section of the Zoo’s hive. She carefully positioned a newspaper between the old colony and the new bees to ensure the bees slowly chew through the paper over a period of a few days, and their odours gradually mix to the point where both sets of bees are unable to distinguish between each other and the two colonies combine.

To prevent bee fights, it is vital to have a slow introduction when mixing bees from different colonies into one hive.

Apiary manager Anne introduces a new bee colony
Apiary manager Anne introduces a new bee colony. Picture: Battersea Park Children’s Zoo Instagram

Jamie Baker, Animal Manager at the Children’s Zoo, embarked on the honey bee project with the aim of inspiring the next generation to take an interest in pollinating insects. Jamie invited members of the London Beekeepers Association to the Zoo for discussions on the educational benefits of sustainable beekeeping.

Tristram Sutton, Apiaries Manager at the London Beekeepers Association, said the teaching apiary, “Hopes to provide an example of more sustainable beekeeping by increasing awareness of the role of pollinators in the urban ecosystem and, by sharing the actual beekeeping between a group of volunteers from the LBKA, providing access to beekeeping for more beekeepers per hive.”

London is a challenging environment for many beneficial insects, the Children’s Zoo points out. With the increase in building developments reducing the opportunity for the planting of large flowering trees, the number of managed honey bee colonies in the capital has doubled in recent years. “As well as this, budget cuts have led to more low-maintenance and non-flowering planting in many public open spaces, flora that doesn’t encourage native pollinators. Fewer resources for our pollinators have led to increasing competition between insects for diminishing food sources – something that is particularly damaging to wild populations of social and solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, wasps and beetles.”

Maintenance of the Children’s Zoo hives takes place weekly, and the beehives can be found at the back of the zoo, near the Scottish wildcats.

The London Beekeepers' Association is a volunteer-run charity that represents the interests of beekeepers and urban beekeeping in the central London area. It provides education and advice, promoting responsible bee keeping and raising awareness of the issues affecting bees.

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