In Woodford Green, a garden buzzes with the sound of 60,000 bees

PUBLISHED: 14:16 16 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:25 16 June 2017

Beekeeping with Rabbi David Hulbert

Beekeeping with Rabbi David Hulbert


As about 30 bees swarm around me, I’m not screaming, crying, using bad language or running away from the scene as fast as my legs can carry me.

Beekeeping with Rabbi David HulbertBeekeeping with Rabbi David Hulbert

Instead, I’m muttering kind words as I brush them off the honey they are drinking and usher in the direction of their hive.

I’m reconnecting with nature in Rabbi David Hulbert’s mother-in-law’s garden in Woodford Green where he has a colony of 60,000 bees in two hives.

It’s a popular activity in the borough, due to the large amount of green space and proximity to Epping Forest.

Rabbi Hulbert, of East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue. who took up the hobby about 16 years ago after a couple in his congregation got him interested, described it as “low in maintenance and high in enjoyment”.

Beekeeping with Rabbi David HulbertBeekeeping with Rabbi David Hulbert

He said: “When the children were young, it was a family activity and the kids along the street were interested.”

Before we get started, he admits to having seen Bee Movie, my only point of education on this topic, and kits me out with wellies, a mesh hood and jacket, and gloves in order to keep me protected.

My initial reaction at the thought of willingly going close to insects that sting isn’t that positive but I know I’m being ridiculous.

Bees play a crucial part in ensuring the survival and success of our ecoystem and we all need to do more to ensure their population doesn’t decline.

And as Rabbi Hulbert explains, the bees will only become agitated if they believe they are in danger, so if you act calm around them, they won’t sting you.

So with my less than glam garb on, the rabbi and his friend Joel Ilson, who has been converted into a fellow beekeeper, bring over a section of the hive.

Before disrupting them too much, we use a smoker, this emits smoke to keep the bees calm whilst we look to see if they have produced enough honey to harvest.

In order to remove the bees, Rabbi Hulbert gently sweeps them off the frames which hold the honey and they make their merry way back to the hive.

When I take over this job, I expect to feel terrified as the bees buzz around me but actually, it’s quite exhilirating.

There’s something very special about seeing how these tiny creatures - the most high-profile pollinators - know how to fly back to their hive.

Whilst I’m not signing up to Woodwork 101 and shifting plants to make space for a hive immediately, I can see myself becoming an urban beekeeper later in life.

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