In the last few years, beekeeping in the Czech Republic has become a fashionable affair—one that’s flown in from the countryside to Prague. You can find hives on the balconies of apartment buildings and the roofs of banks, hotels, and shopping centers. They’re keeping bees on the roof of the National Theater, and a “smart” hive will be installed above the offices of the Praga Studios administrative building in Karlín.
Beekeeping is luring in people from a variety of areas of urban life. Bees don’t care whether you started out as a farmer, artist, politician, or accountant. What’s important is the quality of your care. For example the Prague politicians Jiří Dienstbier and Marek Hilšer both keep bees—the latter in Pohořelec.
You can see the bee trend in other European metropolises as well. London, for example, suffered from a lack of bees a few years back, but now (thanks in part to government support) corporations are starting up roof beekeeping en masse. The London securities exchange, the major department store Fortnum & Mason, and the parliament building in Edinburgh are all linked by beekeeping. Companies are installing hives with great fanfare and hiring professionals to come and take care of them. Thus employees can relax on a sunny roof with the buzzing of bees.
In the Czech Republic, this bee-oriented company culture is not yet widespread. Its honey pioneers include for example Skanska Property, which is planning to place hives, including special monitoring applications, on its newly opened Praga Studios office project.
Beekeeping hurts sometimes...
Beekeeping 4.0, or: Bee Life Online
Digital technologies as a part of “Beekeeping 4.0” have, along with pollen grains, made their way into the work of caring for our honey-making friends. Most often sensors are built into the actual base of the hive, and monitor a vast variety of aspects of the colony. They monitor e.g. the hive’s mass, temperature, internal and external air humidity, atmospheric pressure, light intensity, and bee activity.
An app informs you of any deviations and of the right time to tap the honey. Modern beekeepers thus don’t have to check the status of these factors as often, since the results of regular measurement are archived on an internal SD card, and can also be monitored and managed online. Apps of this sort include VčelyInfo, BeeSpy, WirelessBee, BeeWise, and more.
This special weighing machine is even able to count bees or to measure a temperature. Photo by BeeSpy.cz
A Honey Fad, or a Return to Tradition?
The Czech Republic has been among the countries with the greatest honey riches since time immemorial. Although there was a crisis around the turn of the millennium, the latest generation has turned the situation around, and even brought beekeeping in a big way into the cities.
In the last five years, several thousand new beekeepers have cropped up, and they currently number around 51,000. At the end of 2017, the Czech Beekeepers Association registered a total of 421 active beekeepers within Prague, including beekeeping clubs with their own colony.
Gabriela Kontra, the co-founder of the Hradčanské včely beekeeping club, has been at it since back in 2010. She and her colleagues care for hives in the park on Petřín. “Urban beekeeping has been a trend in recent years, and it’s a good trend. You just have to think hard about whether or not you can keep going. It’s not like buying a pair of pants and laying them aside after a year because they’ve gone out of fashion,” says Gabriela of the other side of the coin.
Beehives are dotted throughout nearly all of Prague. Besides the places you’d expect (gardens, parapets, and balconies), you’ll also find them at e.g. the National Theater, the roof of the famous Rudolfinum building, the Černý Most shopping center, the roofs of hotels and banks, and soon at the new Karlín office building.
Bees on the roof of La Fabrika Theatre in Prague. Photo by vcelynastrese.cz
“Bees fare well in cities; they can filter out smog and the other toxins of the big cities well. What they do have a problem with are herbicides and various weed-killing pesticides. That’s more a problem in the countryside than in Prague,” says Anna Vodrážková, a producer and moderator who is keeping bees for her fourth season now. Her first bee site was the one we mentioned at the National Theater, her second is on the roof terrace of La Fabrika in Holešovice, and the third at U Apolináře—the prop storage for the National Theater.
Downtowns treat bees well in part because they often abound with parks, greenery, and foreign flowers. Even in cities like Prague, Paris, or London, a number of flowers and other plants grow from which they can collect pollen. A bee fact in closing: they’ll fly three to five kilometers to collect pollen!