The UK’s Best Cities for Urban Beekeepers

With urban beekeeping on the rise across the UK, we reveal which cities are the best for budding beekeepers. 

Saving the planet, protecting dwindling bee populations or just looking for your own source of honey? Whatever the reason, bee-keeping in built-up areas is on the up, and more Brits than ever before are looking to become urban beekeepers. In fact, UK Google searches for ‘urban beekeeping’ have jumped 85% between now and last June as more of us look to support our buzzing black-and-yellow friends.

Urban Beekeepers

But which cities are doing the most for bees? And which city is the best for budding beekeepers? We’ve pulled the numbers to find out! We’ve scored UK cities up to 10 points on a variety of bee-friendly factors - including number of parks per person, air quality number of flower gardens, hive schemes in the city, local council conservation efforts, university bee support schemes, local beekeeping associations, number of allotment sites and plots, and access to rivers - out of a top total score of 100. 

 

The Best UK Cities for Urban Beekeeping 

Coming in the first place as the UK’s best city for urban beekeeping, it’s London with 95/100.

This overall ranking takes into account everything in our criteria - so that’s air quality, number of parks, flower gardens, rivers, allotments and various city schemes - London really takes the top spot for high numbers pulled in from the number of parks, gardens and allotments.

 

The Top 10 Best UK Cities for Urban Beekeepers

Rank

City

Bee-Friendly Score / 100

1

London

95

2

Birmingham

86

3

Edinburgh

83.5

4

Manchester

83

5

Leeds

81

6

Sheffield

80.5

7

Bristol

79

8

Leicester

77

9

Liverpool

76

10

Swansea

76

 

London has a size advantage - so taking the capital out, it’s Birmingham which takes the top spot with 86, followed by Edinburgh with 83.5 and then Manchester with 83. Birmingham scores so highly for a number of supportive hive schemes in the city, as well as a large number of allotments. Edinburgh scores highly for green space, parks and gardens, whilst Manchester has hive schemes on numerous city centre buildings, such as the HOME complex. Swansea remains the highest scoring Welsh city, with 76.

Top 10 Best UK Cities for Urban Beekeepers Outside of London

 

Rank

City

Bee-Friendly Score / 100

1

Birmingham

86

2

Edinburgh

83.5

3

Manchester

83

4

Leeds

81

5

Sheffield

80.5

6

Bristol

79

7

Leicester

77

8

Liverpool

76

9

Swansea

76

10

Coventry

74

 

But how did the most bee-friendly cities fare in all categories? There were 10 points available in each and cities were scored for parks per 10k population, air quality, number of flower gardens via Tripadvisor, number of allotment sites, number of allotment plots, whether or not the local council had a page on local bee conservation, whether universities had any hive schemes, hive schemes in city which included any information on hives on local landmarks, if the city has a local beekeeper association, and access to a river.

Plots and A. Sites refer to allotments, whilst BKA refers to local beekeeping schemes.

 

The 18 Best UK Cities for Urban Beekeeping 

 

City

Parks

Air

Gardens

Hives

Council

Local BKA

Uni

A. Sites

A. Plots

River

Total

London

8

8

10

10

10

10

10

9

10

10

95

Birmingham

5

1

11

10

10

10

10

10

9

10

86

Edinburgh

9

7

9

10

10

10

10

4

4.5

10

83.5

Manchester

9

7

6

10

10

10

10

5

6

10

83

Leeds

3

4

6

10

10

10

10

10

8

10

81

Sheffield

6

6

5

10

10

10

10

7

6.5

10

80.5

Bristol

2

7

4

10

10

10

10

8

8

10

79

Leicester

6

5

4

10

10

10

10

5

7

10

77

Liverpool

1

6

9

10

10

10

10

9

1

10

76

Swansea

10

8

5

10

10

10

10

2

1

10

76

Coventry

4

7

3

10

10

10

10

5

5

10

74

Cardiff

0.5

9

4

10

10

10

10

3

6

10

72.5

Glasgow

0.5

10

6

10

10

10

10

2

3

10

71.5

Newcastle upon Tyne

3

3

2

10

10

10

10

6

7.5

10

71.5

Nottingham

4

2

4

10

10

10

10

3

8

10

71

Aberdeen

2

3

8

10

10

10

10

3

3

10

69

Belfast

7

4

4

10

10

10

10

1

2

10

68

Bradford

2

7

2

10

10

10

10

3

0

10

64

 

Full breakdowns of the scoring methodology can be found at the bottom of the page. 

Parks, Air Quality and Flower Gardens 

Some of the biggest concerns with urban beekeeping come from air quality, and access to actual flowers. Bees need multiple local flower sources to survive. We’ve scored these factors out of 30 to reveal that the best city for clean air, parks per 10k population and flower gardens, with the winner is our capital London with 26, followed by Edinburgh 25 and then Swansea with 23. 

 

Ranking the Cities on Air Quality, Number of Flower Gardens and Parks

City

Parks

Air Quality

Flower Gardens

Total / 30

London

2.55

42

89

26

Edinburgh

2.87

34

11

25

Swansea

4.58

46

5

23

Manchester

2.92

32

8

22

Birmingham

1.05

22

9

17

Sheffield

1.42

30

5

17

Glasgow

0.35

95

8

16.5

Liverpool

0.57

27

11

16

Leicester

1.44

26

3

15

Belfast

2.43

25

3

15

Coventry

0.82

32

2

14

Cardiff

0.44

55

3

13.5

Leeds

0.79

25

5

13

Bristol

0.63

34

3

13

Aberdeen

0.62

24

10

13

Bradford

0.67

34

1

11

Nottingham

0.88

23

3

10

Newcastle upon Tyne

0.73

24

1

8

Allotments - Bee Do’s and Don’ts 

Without much space, many urban beekeepers look to allotments to support beekeeping populations. Using FOI data, we’ve revealed which cities have the most available allotment sites and most allotment plots in each city. We’ve added these figures together to rank the cities: 

 

Allotment Sites and Plots in Each City 

 

City

Allotment Sites

Allotment Plots

Total

London

737

36,000

36,737

Birmingham

113

7,000

7,113

Bristol

87

4,352

4,439

Leeds

101

4,021

4,122

Newcastle upon Tyne

69

3,500

3,569

Leicester

43

3,185

3,228

Sheffield

76

3000

3,076

Manchester

41

2,524

2,565

Cardiff

28

2,500

2,528

Coventry

44

2,413

2,457

Edinburgh

30

1,568

1,598

Nottingham

28

924

952

Glasgow

16

700

716

Aberdeen

21

517

538

Belfast

5

228

233

Liverpool

90

90

180

Swansea

16

78

94

Bradford

28

0

28

 

Bees make for a wonderful addition to any allotment site and will actually help you produce better quality produce and higher yields! Of course, if you’re looking to keep bees on an allotment, there’s a few things to consider first.

Speak to the British Beekeepers Association

Beekeeping on an allotment requires knowledge. The British Beekeepers Association runs a 10 week Beekeeping for Beginners Course which includes plenty of information on allotment urban beekeeping and fantastic training - they also offer insurance options! This is the most important step you can take.

Talk to your landlord

It’s well worth speaking to whoever owns the allotment to double check if they’re happy with beekeeping. There may be issues which you’re unaware of.

Join your local Beekeeper Association

Search for your local Beekeeper Association - most cities have one now - and you’ll be offered a wealth of information and access to experienced beekeepers in your area.

Think about hive placement

Hives should be away from other plot holders and paths. Try and encourage bees to fly over hedges if their flight path crosses a footpath - you can do that by planting high hedges around the apiary. Raise the take-off flight line to at least six feet.

Urban Beekeepers

Ask if anyone’s allergic!

Alongside speaking to landlords, find out if anyone who shares the allotment with you has any concerns. If someone’s allergic, you should reconsider.

Balcony Beehives: How to Turn Your Balcony, Garden or Window Box into a Bee Paradise.

If you’re looking to turn your balcony, garden or window box into a beekeeper’s paradise

1. Plant Flowers

Ok, so this one is obvious. But the best way to bring bees to your space is to plant flowers. And you don’t really need a lot of space to do this - a small window-box will do fine. Bees aren't too discerning either, so a wildflower seed pack scattered will do well, but if you really want to bring the bees in, these five flowers make the best bee-lures:

Lilacs - these beautiful flowers come in several different colours, and have a floral fragrance bees find irresistible. Does better in sunny spaces, and works in pots or the ground.

Honeysuckle - a sweet smelling plant which flowers in late summer and autumn. Honeysuckle is a climber which makes it aesthetically pleasing in any garden. 

Lavender - this purple plant has a gorgeous smell, great for your garden and attracting visiting bees!

Sunflowers - tall and striking sunflowers are rich with nectar and pollen - bees love sunflowers.

Calendula - edible flowers which occasionally appear on salads. Bees like them too as they’re rich in nectar.

Bees have an amazing capacity to discover flowers, and do so in a wide radius around the hive - sometimes as far as 5 miles. So by just adding flowers to your balcony, you’re helping to create bee corridor points throughout your city which will help bees from all over get around.

You can also look to plant flowers strategically so that you’ve got some blooming all year. 

2. Build a Bee Hotel

Bee hotels allow bees to nest - think of them like bird-boxes. They need to be about a metre off the ground and out of the rain. Fill it with nesting materials - like twigs and stems of old plants. There’s plenty of build-your-own versions on Youtube too. 

Give them Water 

Bees need to drink! If you have a garden, a pond or water feature with flat leaved plants which allow bees to land will work wonders. Don’t have that much space? No problem. Fill a small tray with water and add some stones and pebbles to the bottom - this will help it look appealing to visiting bees. Add floating corks to make the water super insect friendly - these allow bugs to land.

Methodology

Cities were pulled based on population size - with large cities added from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to represent the entire UK. Data was pulled from a variety of sources, including FOI requests from local councils. We had the following datasets available to us: number of parks per 10k population, air quality, number of flower gardens via Tripadvisor, number of allotment sites, number of allotment plots, whether or not the local council had a page on local bee conservation, whether universities had any hive schemes, hive schemes in city which included any information on hives on local landmarks, if the city has a local beekeeper association, and access to a river.

These were each given a weighted score which assigned a value out of 10, with higher figures suggesting a better environment for beekeeping. These criteria sets add up for a total over score of 100. 

The sources, full data set and sources, can be found here.

At Direct2Florist, we’re all about flowers, and flowers are all about bees! We support bee conversation globally. Shop our florist choice flowers for the best of your local area. 


By Direct2florist 11 June 2021