Soho’s Urban Biodiversity | My Soho Times

Dr Luke Dixon of Urban Beekeeping shares insight into Soho’s often unspoken biodiversity and tips on how we can do our part to save the bees…

It’s around 500 years since the cry of ‘SoHo’ first rang out across this part of London as huntsmen on horseback pursued foxes across the fields. The hunters may have gone, but the foxes are back, bedding down in the gardens of St. Anne’s Church and wandering the streets with an air of urban entitlement in the evenings.

They may be the most striking wild creatures to live in Soho, but they aren’t alone. In recent years the bird population has flourished with great tits, wood pigeons, goldfinches, and a host of others now nesting in trees and on rooftops.

We have our squares and hidden gardens, but it is the greening of Soho’s rooftops that has played a big part in this increasingly rich bio-diversity. Many roofs are now resplendent with vegetation and if you climb across them as often as I do, you will be astonished at just how green Soho is.

A vital but more or less overlooked component of the area’s wildlife is pollination. Soho’s secret beehives are an important part of the area’s wildlife. I have been managing colonies of bees in Soho for fifteen years, initially on the Hearst Magazine building on Broadwick Street, and now on Carnaby and Ganton Street. The bees pollinate the many plants and trees and produce the best honey money can buy. So diverse and pesticide-free is the flora, with flowers in bloom throughout the year, that the bees are always busy and their honey wonderfully complex in taste and texture. Even so, it takes the nectar of four million flowers to produce just one kilo of honey.

Carnaby Street swarm | Photo courtesy of Dr Luke Dixon

Sometimes they swarm. We had a spectacular swarm on Carnaby Street last summer which found a temporary home on the lamp outside the Shakespeare’s Head. It was soon collected and rehoused, but not before it had attracted the attention of plenty of tourists. But mostly the hundreds of thousands of bees in Soho are unseen and unheard.

Save the Bees

1. Plant something for them to forage on; even if it’s just some lavender on your windowsill.

2. Buy local honey: it supports the bees and the beekeepers.

3, Leave some water for them to drink, the birds will be grateful too.

4. Check out the website  www.thebeefriendlytrust.org for lots more information.

For more about Dr Luke Dixon’s work at Urban Beekeeping visit: www.urbanbeekeeping.co.uk

Words and photos by Dr Luke Dixon

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