Steve Benbow is Director of the London Honey Company, a business that produces artisan honey for Harrods, Harvey Nichols and The Savoy as well as golden treats for small delis across London. In addition Steve provides training for beekeepers and businesses and manages beehives for clients in the capital and across England. Fifteen years ago Steve decided he wanted to keep bees in Central London, but there was a problem: he lived on the 6th story of an ex-council block near Tower Bridge with no garden.
The only viable outside space was the flat roof, accessed via a fire escape. Steve located his first hive behind the lift shaft complete with live bee cam and the bees started producing incredible honey. No one else kept bees in such a central location back then and he was able to travel around by bicycle and witness what these amazing critters were foraging on. The bees not only prospered but also produced an incredible honey, which was complex and floral, which started to win awards.
Steve had visited other urban beekeepers, around the world’s cities, when he had been a travel photographer and observed how they operated and manipulated their colonies in Paris, Tokyo, Rio and New York and inspired by their work and devotion, set about expanding his own operation in London. Expansion of such a sensitive business was difficult but soon he was able to tap into the network of businesses scattered across the capital that had huge secure rooftops and his business thrived.
Six years ago Steve decided to move a colossal amount of hives back to Shropshire, where he had kept bees as a child with his grandmother and he was alarmed to discover that his bees suffered considerably in the countryside. He had expected to find bee paradise but found the concreted countryside offered little or no flowering diversity for his bees. Huge fields of yellow oilseed rape, over stimulated his bees and made them ragged and exhausted, whilst pesticides and insecticides caused huge numbers to literally collapse.
Six years ago he became Beemaster to Fortnum and Mason – managing 4 ornate hives on the roof of their store in Piccadilly and today he now services hives for The National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and Britain and a variety of commercial clients and their honey is sold within their stores. He also now manages bees with less intensity – and his bees take small executions throughout the season to gather unusual and often prized honeys from the coast, old fashioned downs or remote heather moors.
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