Plight of the bumblebees

7:30am Sunday 13th May 2012

By Nazia Dewji

Kingston Mosque is joining the growing trend for helping to save bees from dying out – by putting a hive on its roof.

More than 800 Muslims regularly pray at Kingston Mosque, which has been at its current site in East Road since 1979.

And as they pray, between 10,000 and 15,000 bees are buzzing on the roof close to the traditional minaret.

Dentist Munir Ravalia, who is a bee-keeper at the mosque in his spare time, said: “I don’t think we should have a nine to five job and then just forget the rest of the world.

“I feel I need to do my little bit.”

The bee hive at Kingston Mosque was modelled on a similar project that began at Whitechapel Mosque in east London.

The Kingston project is in its second year.

Last summer, during the Muslim fasting season of Ramadan, a number of worshippers prayed on the roof alongside the bees.

Dr Ravalia said: “When we are on the roof some of the neighbours are very interested and we have a good chat with them.

“It is a good way to show people we care about the environment.

“We have promised all the neighbours a jar of honey when we can get some.”

Father and scout leader Dr Ravalia currently speaks to children about bees and hopes to bring visitors to see the hive.

He also took part in an urban bee-keeping course with fellow bee-keeper Aseem Sheikh, who has a bee allergy.

Dr Ravalia said that he had been stung twice and Mr Sheikh had to keep an epi-pen close at hand – just in case.

He said: “He is passionate about bees and I am passionate about honey, so we make a good team.

“When we get into the depth of bee-keeping it is mind blowing.

“Even the hexagon structure of the hive they create is amazing.

“It does not seem random – they were created to be able to do it that way.”

l Kingston University also has its own beekeeping project that was started in June last year as part of the establishment’s green agenda.

There are currently 20,000 to 30,000 bees at the Kingston Hill campus on a sunny south-facing terrace that has restricted access.

The university was forced to split the colony into two after bee-keepers discovered the bees were making a number of new queen bees.

Tina Corr, who works as an admin officer at the university and takes part in the beekeeping as a leisure activity, said: “I was scared the first time I opened a hive, but everyone is fully suited when they visit. “Now I go out and watch them regularly, it is restful.

“Beekeeping is quite technical and it takes a lot more time than I thought it would – it is definitely not for the fainthearted, after all they are wild animals.”

Richmond and North Kingston MP Zac Goldsmith has also been known to dabble in bee-keeping. He said: “As anamateur former beekeeper, I know the magic of keeping bees.

“Tragically, our bees are in real trouble, and their loss would be incalculable.

“I hope we’ll see a renaissance of beekeeping across London, starting in Richmond and Kingston.”

How you can help

Educate your family about bees.

Only spray insecticide in the evening once the bees have gone back to the hive – so it stays on the outside and does not contaminate the pollen and nectar inside.

Plant bee-friendly plants and flowers in the garden to help bees make honey.

Become a bee-keeper or join a local bee-keepers’ association and really help the planet.

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