Its more than just Frankfurt actually. There has been a boom in beekeeping in major cities around the world from London to Hong Kong to New York (which just lifted a ban on beekeeping a few years ago). Hessen has now doubled the number of registered beekeepers to 10,000 in the last decade. And a bunch of them are going to be racing their bees in a few weeks! (More on that lower down…)
It turns out that bees actually fare better in a modern environment than in our current agricultural landscape. Even if we ignore the pesticides and other farming techniques that disrupt the bees’ lifestyle, it seems that the limited crop variation is bad for them. In the cities on the other hand, the many urban gardeners and patches of wasteland provide a wide range of flowering plants that go from very early in the year to very late. Gardeners of course want flowers on their balconies and gardens for as much of the year as possible. This also results in a wider variety of honey flavours than you will find in commercial honey farms.
All that was needed was a home for the bees and in Frankfurt these have sprung up in some unlikely places. The Museum of Modern Art (MMK) has led the way and their roof is now home to some 500,000 bees producing around 200kg of honey a year. You can actually go and taste or buy their honey in the museum shop. At the other extreme is the Jumeirah Hotel which towers above Hauptwache. The hotel has had 4 bee hives at the top of their 28 storey hotel (yes, bees really fly that high!) and produce their ‘Skyline Honey’ which is served directly from the comb at breakfast. Apparently they also use it in the spa as a treatment!
If you are interested in finding out more or just tasting first hand, then there is a free event hosted by the MMK on the 19th August where beekeepers are taking part in a bee race. First bee to fly 600m will win €2000. And of course the 3rd Annual Bee Festival is coming up on the 23rd September
I am going to turn up to the bee race just to see how on earth they manage to get the bees to fly straight and still figure out who won!
If you are interested in learning more or even getting started, then have a look at the bee association’s website. They offer beginners and advanced courses in beekeeping, probably only in German, but still interesting. Apparently, a beekeeper can earn up to €50 and hour looking after hives on top of the many office buildings in the city….