"Our project has a very important social aspect. It’s really important for us that the honey industry we are creating has places for people who are on the edge of the work market. So we train people who have been formerly homeless or have mental health problems. We work with other social projects to train a whole generation of urban bee-keepers from formerly homeless, refugees, immigrants and long-term unemployed….We believe these people are the bee-keepers of tomorrow."
Oliver Maxwell, Founder of Bybi
In Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, millions of Honey bees are working hard for the city. These busy employees provide not only delicious honey to city people, but a blooming environment in the parks and greens around the capital.
It may sound like an absurd idea keeping bees in cities, but in Copenhagen it makes perfect sense. "Bybi" is the company which manages the honey bees and this is done on various roof tops around the city where each bee hive houses around 70.000 bees.
In all, this adds up to approximately 4 million bees inhabiting Copenhagen.
Bees play a very important role in our every day lives. They are estimated as being the most valuable pollinators of crops worldwide, but sadly in recent years bee colonies all over the world have been declining in numbers. Part of the reason is due to pesticides which is the dominating pest control used on agricultural crops in the countryside. When bees go out and pollinate the sprayed crops, they bring back pesticides to their colonies which results in diseases and in the end may cause colony collapse. The vast spraying of pesticides is a huge threat to bee colonies and therefore harming our environment. If this trend in bee population decline continues, it could mean a serious threat to a large part of our agriculture and nature, as 70 % of all plants are pollinated by bees, and this is 30 % of the food we eat. The idea of keeping bees in cities therefore not only helps keep bee colonies going, but it also brings a flourishing environment to the city. Moreover, these urban workers are producing some of the cleanest honey you can get due to the bee's capability of extracting heavy metals and out-pollutants. City traffic fumes and pollution do not harm the bees or their honey, so a bee living in a city is actually a very happy bee.
"One of the great things about having bees in cities is that they are not exposed to pesticides. They can go out into the parks where it's clean, pollinate the flowers and make honey that's not only good for humans, but keeps bee colonies going."
Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of EEA
"It's a very bizarre phenomenon that bees in cities actually produce some of the cleanest honey we can get. And it is because they are designed to extract out-pollutants, but the one thing they can't do is pesticides, but heavy metals and the things we find in cities they can manage." Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of EEA
A social aspect
Oliver Maxwell is the founder of Bybi and he came up with the idea of city bees shortly after the world climate conference COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. He decided to create a sustainable honey production in the city that not only focuses on environmental sustainability, but also on social sustainability.
Bybi has filled out a social gap in Copenhagen and created a happy work environment for their employees, who feel like they have been given a fresh start in life. They are trained in all areas of beekeeping and are a part of the entire process from cradle to grave, to labeling the end product of honey jars ready for distribution.
Bjørn Ambjørn was unemployed for a long time and he was having a difficult time getting back into the job market. He is now an assistant beekeeper at Bybi:
"It (Bybi) has meant that I have become better prepared for the job market. I just had to convince myself that it is OK to give society a second chance" Bjørn Ambjørn, Assistant Bee-keeper, Bybi
The city bee project of Bybi is a happy success story and hopefully it will inspire and replicate to other cities around the world, creating more sustainable honey industries, guaranteed happy bees, delicious, clean honey, a flourishing environment in the city's green areas and more work for people on the edge of the job market.
"We say that the key to nature is being; diversity….All kinds of diversities. Social diversities, plant diversity, bio diversity and what bees can do is they can show us that." Oliver Maxwell, Founder of Bybi
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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