When I worked at the arts centre in London, we had a hive on the roof of the concert hall. Hilariously named the Royal Festival Hive, it was also in the shape of the Festival Hall, and looked after at least partially by one of the guys from Saint Etienne. These crazy mashups are why I particularly miss working there. Anyway, we had artists in residence come up and sing to them, our poet in residence Lemn Sissay recited poetry for them – they were very cultured bees. Occasionally we hooked up microphones to the hive and ran cables down to the ground so people could hear the hive. The hive-keepers even had the National Poetry Library (located inside the Hall) look up bees in poetry. Apparently Sylvia Plath’s father was a beekeeper and she wrote quite a few bee poems herself. My favourite was a trio of singers who performed a selection of bee-related music, including a traditional English round first written in 1260.
We even had a party, and our one of our on-site bars made honey cocktails. It was a long night, I remember that much.
When the possibility arose that we could have a hive in our communal roof garden here at our co-op, I was beyond excited. Thankfully everyone else was keen, and from there things moved quickly. Late one evening last week, I helped Sarah from Hives for Humanity carry one of our hives up to the roof. The bees were so quiet, I couldn’t feel them at all.
The next morning, Elliot and I went up to put out the bees’ water dishes. I had no idea they need water dishes, but if you don’t put out somewhere suitable to drink, they will drown in fountains, or perch on the hosepipe scaring the landscapers. We used terra cotta plant saucers with different sized rocks in, as well as a few twigs for sitting on close to the water level. They seem to enjoy it, when I came out the same afternoon there were four or five on each one.
Our hives are sponsored by both Legacy Liquor, a lovely local neighbourhood shop, and Hives for Humanity. We will have the chance to watch the Chief Beekeeper from Hives for Humanity work on our hives, and hopefully learn a bit about beekeeping ourselves. After our first beekeeper visit, our bees have been pronounced happy and healthy. I admit, I sing to the bees when I bring them their water in the morning, in a bit of a homage to the old arts centre hive.