Britta's Letters from her life divided between city-life in German's capital Berlin and life in a Bavarian village

Wednesday 6 March 2013

The Busy Bees of Berlin

This photo I took last year - sitting on our balcony, watching with all my peace of mind the BBBs (busy Berlin Bees).
As I told you then in my blog 'Gardening in High Heels', a huge lot of hobby beekeepers in Berlin put the beehives on the roofs of hotels or museums, on the Berlin Dome or the house of representatives. You can buy (expensive) Berlin honey - and the bees thrive, because here in town the trees are not sprayed with insecticides, and the air in the city is warmer.
In Germany, I read, there are 94.000 beekeepers with 750.000 bee colonies.
I have a deep affection for bees, because my grandfather H.v.K. (the eccentric one) was a hobby beekeeper. As a child I followed him when he - all in white with his big hat with the net over it, and the enormous pipe in his mouth - attended to the bees. The honey he collected was wonderful - and when sometimes I trod on a bee and cried with pain he consoled me with the promise that by that I would never get rheumatism.
Today my doctor, who had tested my blood to see whether I am allergic to gnats, told me: "No, everything is fine. BUT - they found out you are highly allergic to bees." She recommended an emergency kit - and eventually desensitisation. (When I learned that for this I would have to stay 6 (!!) full night&days in the hospital Charité - and yesterday I read the article in the Guardian how to reach old age, wisely recommending "Stay away from hospitals" - I said "Thank you, but thank you no.").
Now: I am not (utterly) unreasonable: I will buy that kit. Put it into my bag.
But when today - of course it had to be today - the first bee of the year came to my balcony, I said: "Hi, friend, I'm not afraid." I know that bees - other than wasp, which I am not allergic to - only sting when irritated. (OK - one might sit on one and she will find that somewhat irritating).
Taking a spoon full of delicious honey I consider buying a blue balloon instead.

"If you have a blue balloon, they (the bees) might think you were only part of the sky (...)." 
"Wouldn't they notice you underneath the balloon?" you asked. 
"They might or they might not," said Winnie-the-Pooh. "You never can tell with bees." 


  1. What a wonderful story Britta! I hope you have bought the kit by now, if not the blue balloon.Love the description of your eccentric grandfather. They are the best kind! Nice to know you won't get rheumatism :)

  2. Dear Jane,
    that's the silver lining :-)
    And knock on wood: I haven't been stung by a bee for ages...

  3. Unless you keep bees, I think it is rare to be stung by one. I have only been stung by one once - I survived, the bee (unfortunately) did not. Get the kit, and don't wear blue in the summer?

    1. Dear Tom,
      if the bees figure out my (blue) undercover, I might see a rerun of "Skyfall". Though I like blue, I prefer pink.

  4. My partner's mother was allergic to bees and nonetheless kept bees! She lived to be 91 and change. I don't recommend this, of course, but it's interesting to think that it's possible. As for that hospital stay, my reaction is, this is ridiculous. If they want folks to go through this process, they need to find a more sensible course. Hospital is to be avoided whenever possible (in my humble opinion).

    1. Dear Sue,
      only the laws for living in a flat hinder me to put a beehive on the balcony :-) And I share your opinion about hospitals: only when absolutely necessary - and as short as possible. (One only has to look at their unwholesome food to see it all.. - when I had my Cesarian husband I implored to bring me milk and yoghurt - they served beans and cabbage to breast-feeding mothers!)

  5. I have found that only some varieties of bees and wasps are aggressive. Love Winnie the Pooh. Our old dog was Eeyore to the 'T'. I thought about raising bees but learned how much work it is, not sure if I want to get into it right now.

    1. Dear Janet,
      yes, it is a lot of work - but also very rewarding. Beekeepers told me you need about three years to find out your way to treat them. And they are so important to nature - there was a documentary recently showing what would happen if they were gone (many die now of illness or pesticides). The bees I see here are not as slim as the old ones, but more like tiny bumble bees with a lot of hair on their back.

  6. My husband would LOVE this post.

  7. Dear Suze,
    does he want to be a beekeeper? Or why? - I'm curious to know.

  8. That's wonderful that the city encourages a rooftop island of safety for the bees. It's too bad, though, that you aren't allowed to participate in the fun yourself. As long as you keep lavender on the balcony, you will probably be safe from irritable bees. If it works on bees like it does on humans, it will render them calm, sleepy, maybe even sedated. Believe me, it works on excitable grandsons!

  9. Dear Walk2write,
    in summer I always have lavender on my balcony - it is so nice to my many roses. And now a riddle is solved: why my grandma always had a lavender scent around her :-) (for me it is the typical nice scent of old ladies) - and I will remember the tip for future grandsons-to-be.

  10. Dear Britta,
    I love bees, especilly if I see in the country.
    This picture reminds me of spring time ... not here in Italy, one week of rain and next week again ...
    Have a sunny great week end.
    Bisous, Babi

  11. Dear Babi,
    I'm longing for spring too - we had a warm week - and now: snow again! Anouncing -8°C for the next week... shiver... But I think Italy has more sun now - enjoy your weekend! Bisous, Britta