Bee colony on London shop window brings buzz for shoppers

5,000 insects nested in Topshop on Victoria street today were later smoked out

The swarm of 5,000-strong honeybees that were attracted to a discount sign on the window of Topshop in Victoria Street, central London, are put into a box by bee keepers from the John Lewis Partnership and Westminster Cathedral, to be transported across the road to the roof of Westminster Cathedral. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

The swarm of 5,000-strong honeybees that were attracted to a discount sign on the window of Topshop in Victoria Street, central London, are put into a box by bee keepers from the John Lewis Partnership and Westminster Cathedral, to be transported across the road to the roof of Westminster Cathedral. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Fri, May 16, 2014, 21:14

A 5,000-strong swarm of honeybees caused a buzz in the middle of central London today by nesting on a shopfront .

The bees honed in on a discount sign on the window of Topshop in Victoria Street, turning the fashion store display into a carpet of insects.

Scores of Londoners stopped to take photographs of the unusual sight, in the heart of busy central London.

Tony Mann, a project manager at nearby John Lewis and a trained bee keeper, dashed over to the shop to help lead efforts to smoke the European honeybee colony out.

Mr Mann, who donned a white bee keeping costume and netted hat for the tricky task, said: “We have either had a virgin Queen or an old Queen, she has left the nest and she has brought the warm and settled on the shop front.”

He said some of the bees were flying around the area “like scouts to try to find out where the next best place to go is”.

Adding: “We are going to smoke them into a box and encourage them to stay there and we will remove them later today.”

Asked where the bees will be taken, he said: “They will go to whoever wants a hive. We need bees in London as much as we need them on the countryside. Bees are a keystone species. These are European honeybees.”

The unusual nesting place was thought to have been picked by the queen bee, who landed there first and was quickly followed by her devoted colony. It is common for honeybees to swarm and set up a new hive during the spring time.

The colony was later safely moved across the road to Westminster Cathedral, where it will be looked after by beekeepers on top of the Catholic church’s roof.

It is not known where the bees originally came from, but a string of shops in the local area do have their own hives.

David Beamont, operations manager at the Victoria Business Improvement District (BID), which manages the interests of businesses in the area, said trained keepers arrived quickly on the scene to deal with the situation.

He said: “In Victoria there are over a dozen experienced beekeepers who have all been on an intense training course that focuses on the theory and practical training of urban beekeeping, successfully managing hives for nearly two years.

“Local beekeepers were able to respond swiftly to manage the swarm, collect them in a mobile hive and move them to a suitable location. Our ambassadors were also on site to reassure members of the public that the bees were not distressed.”

Ruth Duston, CEO of Victoria BID, said local businesses kept bees to boost the area’s biodiversity.

“With a falling national bee population, the bees in Victoria play a key role in showing that London is a healthy, liveable city,” she said.

PA