Urban beekeeping on East London rooftops
Urban beekeeping on East London rooftops
Image: Getty

All the cool people are doing it. Okay, the cool people with big gardens, rooftop penthouses or smallholdings. Keeping bees, that is.

You don’t actually have to keep them yourself; you don’t need to rush out and buy the outfit or be covered in bees a la Eddie Izzard. There are dudes out there who set up the hive for you and harvest from it and, in return, you get some honey. It’s the hipster urban farming groove, in its most charming form.

Or is it? Nothing is simple any more. Many experts say urban honey-bee farming is a terrible idea because apparently increasing the urban honey-bee population is taking pollen away from wild bee populations. The urban bee guardians disagree, of course.

I don’t have the answers but one thing’s for sure: we’re worrying about the wrong bees. The crisis in global pollinator decline has only been associated, for the lay-person, with the honey bee. In fact, honey bees represent a small fraction of the many thousands of bee species busy pollinating and wild bees are the worst affected. Many think this is mainly due to pesticides. If you scoff at organic farming because you think it’s too hippy or has no proven nutritional superiority (actually, you’d be a bit right there), keeping bees alive seems like a damn good reason to support pesticide and chemical-free agriculture.

Urban beekeeping on East London rooftops
Urban beekeeping on East London rooftops
Image: Getty

Once you get to the actual honey in the jar, it’s still complicated. An astonishingly large proportion of the jars of “honey” on supermarket shelves - and baked goods, confectionaries etc  - are almost honey free. They are often a small amount of honey, plus flavourants, corn syrup, colouring and so on. Or it might be pure honey but have lost its pollen, and much of its nutritional value, through ultra-filtration.

Is that the end of the world, apart from the consumer rights issue? Even pure, raw honey is not the nutritional magic bullet some claim it to be and if you can spend R80 on a jar of sweetness, well, I’m not too worried about your general nutrition.

Your insulin levels? Now that’s a different story – honey has no better effect than table sugar on blood sugar levels. Both are made up of sucrose and glucose and the difference in the GI level is so small as to be irrelevant.

The real reason to buy good honey is because it’s delicious. Oh, and stick to the sort that makes badgers happy, of course.     

Best use for honey:

In the 90s, we were all mad about the super-glam, super-dramatic Kenyan cocktail Dawa. And then, for some reason, we decided to move on and get jiggy with Negronis and such. Also great, but I hate how trends sideline other trends. Everyone in Kenya seems to have a different take on it but the main elements are always honey, lime, vodka and plenty of ice. You can use a wooden or bamboo muddler.

WATCH | How to make the perfect Dawa cocktail:

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