Hong Kong's First Urban Beekeepers Ensuring Survival of Local Traditions

Photo: HK Honey

Hong Kong as a city and as an experience never ceases to amaze me. Though the stereotypical image of Hong Kong as a glittering, polluted ultra-modern metropolis still stands, it's surprising to discover that even just a half-hour ferry ride away from the main island, pockets of quiet rural living and relatively undeveloped beaches still exist.

The same can be said for Michael Leung, who is apparently Hong Kong's first urban beekeeper. Leung is also the founder and creative director of HK (Hong Kong) Honey, an organization that links local beekeepers with city dwellers by providing locally produced honey products. But the organization's ultimate goal is to also help sustain declining bee populations, while raising awareness by keeping a vital relationship between people and bees alive. Leung says it himself in this wonderful video:

Nokia - HK Honey from The Silentlights on Vimeo.

According to the HK Honey website, though Leung is Hong Kong Island's first urban beekeeper, beekeeping has been around on the outlying areas of the New Territories for some time. In fact, Leung was trained by Mr. Yip, who has had a bee-farming operation in Shatin since the 1980's.

After meeting in early 2010, by the summer an enthusiastic Leung, who is a product designer by profession, had gotten HK Honey up and running. Now it's uniting Hong Kong urban beekeepers from all walks of life, linking a network of local bee farms and offering workshops, tours on urban beekeeping and making honey products. Its online shop also offers scrumptious handmade products like the usual candles and bottled honey, but also honey cakes made from local ingredients (apparently available only during their workshops).

Of course, it's interesting to know that there are slight differences between the Western and Chinese way of beekeeping, not to mention behavioural variances between Chinese and Western bees:

The Chinese approach to beekeeping uses no protective clothing - no gloves and no head nets. This gives us a closer connection to the bees. When we work with them, we make sure we move very slowly and try not to disturb them too much.

Make no mistake: bees are in decline and they are a keystone species in many of the planet's ecosystems. So understandably it's an exciting and inspiring project to witness, amongst other stirrings of eco-consciousness in Hong Kong, such as the recent rise of the local anti-shark fin soup movement. Seeing these small apiarian empires reigning above the concrete jungle, it promises a sweeter future for bees and people alike.

Check out the lovely HK Honey website for more information on workshops and products.

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Tags: Bees | Communities | Hong Kong | Urban Life