Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Bee Swarms Invade Berlin

Bee Swarms Invade Berlin

Wednesday, 14 August, 2019 - 06:15
In this file photo, bees, partly loaded with pollen, return to their hive in central Germany. (Getty Images)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat

They go to the rescue when others would flee. They are the Schwarmfänger, swarm-catchers, on call to collect honeybees by the thousands when they gather where people do not want them. This year, the Schwarmfänger have been very busy.

While much of the Western world is worried about bees dying off, Berlin and other big German cities have the opposite problem; there are too many hives, because of the rising popularity of urban beekeeping. Shoppers at Berlin's finer organic stores and public markets are increasingly seeing locally grown honey for sale.

Alfred Krajewski, 59, one of the volunteer swarm-catchers, said: "It's quite hip at the moment; people put up a hive on their balcony somewhere and think they are doing something for nature."

According to The New York Times, many newcomers to beekeeping mistakenly see it as a fairly easy hobby, when in reality they have neither the knowledge nor the time for it.

Like anyone who gets fed up with a lousy landlord, the bees leave, turning up in seething clumps under eaves, on lampposts or in backyards — and a call goes out to someone like Krajewski.

Berlin has more than 20 hives per square mile belonging to registered beekeepers, and an unknown number tended by people who are not registered, according to Benedikt Polaczek, who heads the city's beekeepers' association, which helps organize the swarm-catchers.

Polaczek, who teaches beekeeping at the Free University of Berlin, said: "We have too many people who keep bees who do not do enough for their bees."

He was careful to make a distinction between trained beekeepers and those who do not know enough to do it properly.

The rest of Germany has fewer than six registered hives per square mile, short of the number it should have for agricultural needs, he said.

Editor Picks