London-based urban beekeeper and VanMoof rider Meetal likes to think of himself as the father of the bees: “Although in reality,” he admits, “I’m just their caretaker.” But how important is his work? Well, without bees and other pollinators, our ecosystem would begin to collapse. You might not expect an advocate of bees like Meetal to live in central London, but he’s keen to help others understand that the natural world is closer than we might think: “Even in the very densest populated parts of London, there are signs of nature everywhere. You just need to know where to look.”
Meetal’s venture into urban beekeeping has shifted his perspective on life in the city, and opened up his eyes to what else the capital can offer for those who take the time to look. Not only has it enabled him to make connections between seemingly isolated places in the city as he bikes between each hive, but it’s meant he’s been closer than ever to the natural environment. Journeying between hives by bike helps Meetal slow down the pace of life, and take in the details that can make living in a metropolis so special: “It's not just about getting from A to B in a power suit and frowning at everyone who looks you in the eye. It's about enjoying your surroundings and being able to appreciate where you are.”
“Even in the very densest populated parts of London, there are signs of nature everywhere. You just need to know where to look.”
So, why should we care about bees? “Bees are incredibly important because the vast majority of the food that we consume on a day-to-day basis comes from their active pollination from bees and other insects. Without them, we wouldn't have a lot of food that's on our table at the moment,” Meetal explains. The fact that even the tiniest creatures can have such a monumental impact on our lives is something we often forget. But putting life in perspective is something Meetal thinks is crucial as we look for ways to adapt to our ever-changing world and endangered climate: “Food isn’t just something that's wrapped in cellophane in the supermarket. There's a lot that goes into it and all of that is massively interconnected. The possibility of having no food to eat puts your concern for being late for work because the bus is seven minutes delayed into perspective.”
The honey yielded from Meetal’s hives is as diverse as the city he so values for its eclectic mix of people, cultures, and places: “For me, it’s a reflection of everything that's happening in the city in a jar.” The honey is made from all the trees, plants, and flowers that grow in the vicinity of the beehive, creating a unique blend that exists only in that specific part of the world: “You'll have honey from Hackney that tastes completely different to honey from Dulwich, for example.”
Meetal’s convinced that there is huge opportunity for our cities to become more intertwined with nature – a conviction that upends the idea that the urban environment should be sterile, commercial, and practical: “There's so much scope for us to live in a place that has more greenery and is more sustainable and more future-proof against climate change because all of these sort of things really do roll in together.” We couldn’t agree more. So, does this sound like the kind of future you’d like for your city?