• Germany's news in English

Urban beekeeping gets Berlin buzzing

The Local · 17 Mar 2011, 17:16

Published: 17 Mar 2011 17:16 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Hans Oberländer wants to make sure bees don’t get a bad rap in Germany just because wasps can be annoying while eating outside during the warmer months of the year.

“Wasps are scavengers. Bees eat nectar,” Oberländer said, explaining how bees don’t hover over plates of meat and drinks each summer.

The director of a university cafeteria in Berlin, Oberländer is taking part in a new project to introduce honeybees to the German capital’s urban landscape. The hobby beekeeper hopes it will help people realize bees aren’t likely to be a nuisance like wasps can be.

Berlin summt!, or Berlin’s Buzzing!, has set out to place honeybee hives on prominent buildings and public areas. Co-founder Corinna Hölzer said the project’s goal is to raise awareness and appreciation for an often misunderstood yet vital creature.

“Although Berlin is already a ‘green’ city, we want people to get interested in the interrelationships within the natural world,” she told The Local.

Buzzed in Paris

The inspiration for Berlin summt! came from Parisian beekeeping legend Jean Paucton, who was prop master at the Opéra Garnier. Before he could move his bees to the countryside, he installed hives on the roof of the opera house in 1982. When he saw that the bees were happy and thriving, he got permission to leave them there. They’re still there and the honey they yield is now sold as a luxury item.

Hölzer hopes the project will draw attention to the importance of bees in even urban environments such as Berlin.

Bees are vital for the pollination of plants and the little black-and-yellow workaholics are responsible for dusting nearly three-quarters of the crops that provide an estimated 90 percent of food worldwide.

But monoculture, extensive use of pesticides and the proliferation of diseases and parasites such as the Varroa mite have threatened bee survival, resulting in a sharp decline in their numbers worldwide.

In 2006, the bee population was hit by inexplicable mortality, with some beekeepers losing entire colonies. Of the 298 wild bee species in that live Berlin, almost half are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ endangered list.

According to Hölzer, modern agricultural methods have put bees under extreme stress. “It’s no wonder their immune system has collapsed,” she said. “That’s why it’s imperative to preserve biodiversity, maintain an abundance of habitats and engage in ecological practice in agriculture.”

Country bees in the big city

In contrast, Berlin’s diverse vegetation, particularly its abundant linden trees, make it a haven for bees. About 500 beekeepers live in the city, and, perhaps surprisingly, many bring their bees from surrounding areas to let them feed on its urban buffet.

“Berlin is a big city full of cultural professionals,” Hölzer explained. “I would like them to say: ‘I understand, I’m open to this issue, I can make room on my roof for the bees’.”

With this year’s early start of the bee season, the project participants are meeting this week to schedule the placement of the hives.

Some will be perched atop prominent locations such as the city’s House of World Cultures and Berlin's parliament building, as well as possibly the Natural History Museum and a cathedral.

Story continues below…

Oberländer will also put two hives on the roof of his cafeteria – Humboldt University’s Mensa Nord.

Bringing bees to work

When he saw an ad for the project in the German Bee Journal, Oberländer decided it was a perfect way to combine his hobby with his work. “The cafeteria guests will gain a greater understanding of the honeybee,” he said. “And by buying the honey, they’ll indirectly support the preservation of biodiversity.”

Oberländer, who is the middle link in three generations of beekeepers in his family, said more than 3,000 visitors to Mensa Nord every weekday will have the opportunity to observe the bees through windows on the first floor that look out onto the roof.

The general public can view the hives on June 19 and Oberländer also plans to host regular presentations on Thursdays at noon for interested guests. In July he even plans to remove an entire honeycomb so visitors can see the result of bees’ efforts firsthand.

“Everyone can have a piece of the honeycomb to try – it has a consistency like chewing gum and is exceptionally delicious,” he said.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

00:53 March 19, 2011 by derExDeutsche
aren't there a lot of bees in cola cans and bottles in the garbage cans, mostly? I mean when it come to city bees, there may be a dandelion here or there, but isn't that honey mostly engine coolant?
00:07 March 21, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
Even if they do eat a lot of Cola, derEx, if any colonies can be planted anywhere they ought to be. We need bees and they are under extreme pressure due to this CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). Scientists in the US seem to have finally isolated the disease vectors but a solution is not yet in place and losses of hives in 2010 were still at the levels of 2007 (extreme). See here for more technical info:

Today's headlines
Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd