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Last updated: 07 Jan 2021 11:52am

Beekeeping & Gardening

Beekeeping at City

The roof of University building now houses City’s beehives. City will have its own vegetable garden soon, and already has one green roof (on top of the performance theatre in College Building) and a green wall (in the College Courtyard). The beehives will help to raise awareness with City staff, students and the local community about the importance of protecting our biodiversity and bees in particular.

The staff and student Bee Team are responsible for looking after the hives and harvesting the honey (around 10-20 kg a year).

If you want to learn how to work with bees and are interested in joining the Bee Team, please email

Beehive management

The beehives are supervised by professional beekeeper Dr Luke Dixon of Urban & Community Beekeeping, who is an expert in rooftop and urban beekeeping and a member of the British Beekeepers Association.

Dr Dixon provides training for staff and students so they can learn how to manage a hive.

Why Bees?

  • In the UK alone, bees contribute £200m a year to the economy through pollination. In all, bees play a crucial role in pollinating some 90 commercial crops worldwide.
  • The British Beekeepers Association estimates that if people were to take over the job of pollination from bees in the UK, it would require a workforce of 30 million.

A bit about bees

  • In the UK there are approximately 44,000 beekeepers looking after around 240,000 hives.
  • A hive can contain up to 70,000 bees in midsummer. There is 1 queen, 250 drones, 20,000 female foragers, 30,000 female house-bees, 5,000 to 7,000 eggs, 7,000-11,000 larvae being fed and 16,000 to 24,000 larvae developing into adults in sealed cells.
  • The queen makes a mating flight during her early life during which she stores the sperm from up to 20 drones. Drones that mate with her die in the act. She can store the sperm for up to 5 years.
  • Bees are busy outside of the hive from the onset of warm spring weather until the beginning of autumn. While flowers are in bloom they will collect nectar and make it into honey which they store in the hive to live on over the winter months.
  • A worker honeybee in summer lives only 6 to 8 weeks from the time she hatches as an adult bee. Before that, it takes just 3 weeks for her to develop from an egg.
  • During the winter the bees rarely leave the hive but cluster together to keep warm. Winter bees live for 6 months and will occasionally go outside to defecate in order to keep the hive clean.

Bees in London

The Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority are advocating the support of increased beekeeping in London. They say, “In the winter of 2009/10, Britain lost a third of its bee colonies. Bees are a vital part of Britain’s ecology, and are directly responsible for pollinating at least 30% of the food crops we eat. They are also an important indicator of our ecosystem’s overall health.

There are many reasons for the decline of bees. What is clear however is that large, urban centres are becoming havens for bee populations. They provide a milder climate and a wider range of food than the countryside. London has a key part to play in the future survival of Britain’s bee populations and with more Londoners than ever choosing to grow their own food, bees are more important than ever.

Gardening at City

Coming soon: City's own vegetable garden!

Following refurbishment of the Drysdale building, City will be getting a new space in the garden to grow vegetables, herbs and other plants. The garden space will be managed by student and staff volunteers and will play a major role in supporting the University's sustainability objectives, including the Student and Staff Engagement Strategy, Sustainable Food Policy, and Biodiversity Policy.

The garden will open later in 2019. Volunteer days will be held in the garden throughout the year to encourage students and staff to plant new crops, weed and help maintain the space.

If you are interested in getting involved in the future, please contact the Sustainability Team at

You can also join our staff and student volunteer gardening team, who help to look after Northampton Square, in conjunction with Islington Council and local residents' gardening groups. If you would like to get involved, contact the Volunteering team at