How do you manage all your beehives?
I lead a very nomadic life, constantly on the road. I work virtually seven days a week. The season starts to slow down now, so I’m bedding the bees down for the winter. The beehive entrance must be draught-free, then I cover the hive and put a brick on top – a symbol to signify the end of the season.
How did you become a beekeeper?
My grandmother got me interested in bees and honey. I used to be a travel photographer, but I kept a beehive on my roof in Bermondsey. You’re dealing with 50,000 bees in one hive, and I worried about how they were going to survive, but it worked incredibly well. I started to look at more commercial sites, and went to New York, Paris and Rio to see how other beekeepers managed their bees in cities. Then I set up the London Honey Company, and sold all my cameras on eBay about 10 years ago.
What are the risks in urban beekeeping?
My primary concern is the bees – I constantly worry about their welfare and security. They need to be well away from people. Fortnum & Mason designed elaborate hives for them, which was nice.
How far do the bees travel?
Up to three miles. London is 65 per cent green space, so there’s a colossal amount of forage for bees. Having said that, London is not insecticide- or pesticide-free like Paris, so we need to campaign for that – and for parks to plant a lot more for bees and other pollinators.
They’re all very different – the Tate Britain Honey is often butterscotch and deep in colour, while Tate Modern is very citrusy and floral – the nectar sources for Tate Britain are mature acacias, whereas in Tate Modern you get a lot more honeydew from sticky lime trees. Fortnum’s honey this year is also quite citrusy.
Would you encourage anybody to set up a hive?
No – it’s not something you can do without extensive training. I’d encourage people to do a lot more planting, or guerrilla gardening with seed bombs, in places like roundabouts that need a lot more wild planting. Government departments are seriously underfunded for disease recognition, too; some bumblebee species are really suffering.
What’s your favourite honey?
Greek thyme honey – it’s lovely and thick, like molasses.