The Royal Bees - King Charles III, Bees and Beekeeping
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II last year was a defining moment in the history of our country. Regardless of how you feel about the monarchy as a whole, I think many of us felt a desperate sense of loss and more than a little uneasiness for the future. The tradition of beekeeping has long been a part of Royal Family life, not only has King Charles been active in beekeeping for many years, but as Prince of Wales he has a long history of highlighting the plight of bees and urging for their protection and welfare.
The Royal Bees
It's common knowledge that there are beehives at Buckingham Palace, but did you know that there are hives at many of the other royal estates too? King Charles is huge a fan of bees and he is known to have many beehives at his Highgrove House country home in Tetbury. The beehives there are integrated into a large organic farm and the gardens are said to be filled with plants and flowers that are attractive to pollinators. Some of the honey the bees produce can even be bought by the public from the Highgrove Gardens website.
The official Clarence House Twitter account has also posted often about the beehives at the London Royal residence, urging summer visitors to Clarence House to look out for the beehives there.
Support and Awareness
As the Prince of Wales, King Charles did a lot of invaluable work through his support of initiatives and projects for the environment, often with a focus on the importance of bees. He has spent time visiting schools across the country encouraging children to get involved by taking on projects like planting flowers and creating bee-friendly areas in their schools. He's also visited community apiary projects, universities and beekeeping groups to show support and encouragement. For those involved in such projects his attendance and support provided a lot of media attention that they sadly might not have got otherwise.
If we go back ten years the issue of neonicotinoids use was barely on anyone's radar, other than perhaps beekeepers who were the first to notice the impact their use was having on their hives. Charles was someone who was raising awareness of the effect they were having on bees very early on and his intervention is something many beekeepers are extremely grateful for. I'm sure in some part it was his highlighting of the issue in front of the world's media that helped push the agenda into the corridors of the EU which finally led to a significant reduction in their usage.
Bees for Development
Both King Charles and his wife Queen Consort Camilla have been involved in the charity Bees for Development since they met the charity’s representatives in 2015 during a visit to Monmouth. It was a very pleasant surprise when Camilla became their first president on World Bee Day 2020 and we hope Her Majesty will continue in this important role now she is Queen.
Bees for Development was set up with an aim to help people in poorer countries around the world become self-sufficient through beekeeping. They do this by promoting sustainable beekeeping to combat poverty, build livelihoods and benefit the local biodiversity. The general principle of alleviating poverty by facilitating self-sufficiency reminds me of the old saying “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” and this very much rings true with the ethos of the charity.
To quote Bees for Development “We all get so much from bees as they pollinate food crops and wild plants. Honey bees enable people to make a living through working with nature, harvesting honey and beeswax, while helping to preserve biodiversity. Beekeeping is low cost, sustainable, and has the greatest effect on those who have the very least.” Bees for Development has now worked in more than 50 countries worldwide, undertaking beekeeping project work on behalf of organisations such as the United Nations and managing local and initiatives in countries such as Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda.
Supporting people out of poverty through beekeeping is such a fantastic and simple idea, we think this charity deserves our attention too and we are very glad that they have the support of our King and Queen Consort.
Camilla also has her own charity honey, produced by the bees in her Wiltshire garden at Ray Mill House. The honey is sold by Fortnum & Mason, London in a limited edition each year and all proceeds go to a charity she is a patron of. This year there is even a special 'Coronation Edition' of the honey! It is quite clear that both King and Queen have a huge passion for bees, honey and beekeeping which we think is brilliant!
It's understandable and unfortunately inevitable that Charles' ability to be involved in some of these activities will become limited now that he is King. While some people had concerns about his past activism on global warming and pesticide use, as beekeepers and being involved in bee saving projects ourselves, we were always thankful for his words and the attention they gave to the issues. We hope that he and Her Majesty will continue to keep their eyes on the ongoing problems that face bees around the world and will speak up when they have that opportunity. We also have no doubt that their love of bees and the attention they deserve will be passed on to Prince William and Princess Kate who will hopefully pick up The King's work in this area that he devoted so much time to when he was Prince of Wales.