Let's Meet... Barnes & Webb, Urban Beekeepers

Posted: Feb 02 2015

Barnes & Webb are a London based beehive rental company set up in 2013 by Chris Barnes and Paul Webb. With hives across the capital the honey is labelled with the postcode where it's made - here at Nook we stock the N16 honey, which is harvested from hives placed on Cazenove Road in Stoke Newington. 
Tell us a bit about your background & how you met
We both studied graphic design and met when working for a London design agency many, many, years ago. We've just about remained good friends ever since.
How did you get into beekeeping?
We took a mutual friend on an introductory beekeeping course with the LBKA for his Birthday. Chris and I got the bug and took further courses. During some time travelling around New Zealand, Chris sought out a bee farm where he worked for a season. They place hives in private gardens around Auckland which Chris helped to maintain and harvest.
Which areas do you currently have hives in?
Mainly in East London. Shoreditch, Aldgate, London Fields, Homerton, and Clapton. Some on roofs, others in private gardens. This year we'll be spreading further North and West. We have to be conscious of over saturating an area with hives. London has incredible diversity and wealth of nectar and pollen sources for bees, but too much competition means a lower honey harvest. That's why we don't place bees in the South East as it's a very popular spot already for beekeepers.
What are the benefits of eating local honey?
Local honey can contain traces of the same pollens that cause your hay fever. Consuming them regularly could increase your tolerance and reduce symptoms. Supermarket honeys are generally blended from many sources which creates a generic taste. We're always surprised by the complexity and difference in flavour from one hive to the next. Supermarket brands are also heated which removes some of the healthy stuff which you find in our raw honey. It's a great boost for the immune system. You're also supporting a local business and the production of local food.
Describe a typical day in the life...
One of the best things about a typical day in the life is it's unpredictability. The bees are always doing something unexpected which means you're constantly being challenged and learning something new. There's also so many things going on outside of the actual beekeeping. Chris and I tend to inspect a lot of the hives individually now to save time. We could both visit 3 or 4 sites in a day, checking the hives for eggs, signs of swarming and disease. We might be jarring and labelling honey and also delivering it to our customers.
What are your plans for 2015?
Barnes & Webb is becoming a not for profit venture which will increase our focus on it's benefit to the communities where we operate. This means employing retired beekeepers to look after hives as well as training the unemployed. This Spring we'll be installing our first community hives which were funded by our art auction last year. These hives will provide a local free food source for residents as well as a focal point for education and awareness regarding bees and wider environmental concerns. We'll have more varieties of London Postcode Honey available as well as completely new products sourced from our hives.
To find out more about Barnes & Webb and to hire hives check out their website: www.barnesandwebb.com