| Aenne Seidel |
Berlin (dpa) – Albert Einstein reputedly once said that if the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.
The quote has re-emerged,
usually in connection with colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious disease that is sweeping through US and European honeybee hives, but a German environmentalist thinks he has the answer.
The Berlin entrepreneur believes private urban bee-keeping is an under-utilised weapon in the battle to solve
what he believes is one of the most pressing environmental problems of our times.
So Johannes Weber has developed the “BienenBox”, a beehive that fits on the balconies that are typical of the apartments that Germans live in.
It enables bee-keeping enthu-siasts to keep their bees flexibly, easily and ecologically in an urban environment.
The BienenBox can be used on roofs, in gardens and even on those cute little balconies that stick out from multistorey building facades in continental Europe.
The bees can find plenty of nectar flowers in public parks and private gardens.
“Berlin is at the vanguard of a nationwide movement that is looking to bring bees into German cities,” says Weber, who came up with his idea for the BienenBox three years ago when he had to move his beehive out from his courtyard garden.
Weber wanted to design a system that would allow as many city dwellers as possible the chance to keep bees, even if they did not have access to a garden.
The 29-year-old has already founded a bee-keeping association and is well on the way to producing his BienenBox on a commercial scale.
Weber has already raised two-thirds of his targeted 20,000 euros in capital through a crowd-funding campaign.
He hopes his invention can help stabilise Germany’s bee population, which has suffered from the spread of the parasitic varroa mite as well as the widespread use of pesticides and antibiotics.
Amateur apiarists only need to spend 20 hours a year on maintaining their BienenBox hive, according to Weber, and are rewarded with an average of 15 kilogrammes of honey.
In Germany, there’s a but.
Germans take qualifications seriously, and are sceptical about amateurs.
So some have sneered at bee-keeping becoming a “fashion trend”, where people purchase a bee colony and begin bee-keeping before learning the necessary skills.
Benedikt Polaczek, chairman of the Berlin Bee-keeping Association has also criticised the solution of putting beehives on balconies of apartment blocks.
He points out that neighbours may get scared if the bees pop into the next-door flat in search of flowers.
This could damage the reputation of bees in the long term.
Bee-keeping has certainly become more popular in Berlin in recent years, with Polaczek’s association noting a 12-per-cent increase in membership over the last year alone.
Weber accepts that his invention brings with it risks and responsibilities for those who use it for bee-keeping.
To ensure prospective custo-mers know what they are taking on, Weber is offering workshops and seminars in an effort to educate people about the skills needed to be a successful bee-keeper.
Ending up with neglected bee colonies across Berlin is an eventuality Weber wants to avoid at all costs.