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Urban Beekeeping

The National Theatre has always kept pace with the times. In 2015, it joined dozens of other Czech institutions, including the Prague Castle, that had taken up urban beekeeping. Numerous urban institutions, such as hotels and many world-renowned stages, now keep beehives on their rooftops. And since the bees are in fact part of our ensembles, they are truly national in character. If you wish to meet “The National Bees”, you can visit the Store of Decoration at Viničná, which is ideal for the bee colony, thanks to its proximity to the nearby botanical garden, but also due to the relative quiet, plenty of sunlight and very little wind. The National Theatre beekeeper, Anna Vodrážková, says the city is suitable for the bees, as smog is less harmful to the colony then pesticides would be, and the varied greenery of parks keeps the bees busy.

The original idea was to keep the bees on the roof of The New Stage or the historic National Theatre building. However, the roof of The New Stage was too hot, and the terrace of the historic building was too cold. The bees were at The National Theatre itself for four seasons, but they always left just before winter.  The Store of Decoration at Viničná is ideal for bees as it close to a body of water and the aforementioned botanical garden.

Urban beekeeping has its distinctive features. When bees lack food, they can travel up to five kilometres to find it. This is never true for Prague bees, who have plenty to eat at local parks. However, if you want to split the colony (for example to move part of it to a new location), you must take the bees quite far, otherwise they will find their way to the previous home.

Bees don’t mind the air in Prague, but are very sensitive to pesticides, which are luckily nowhere to be found in the city. Farming in monocultures (a single crop in a field at a time) is also detrimental for bees and is in fact one of the main causes for the rapidly declining numbers of them. Urban bees needn’t worry about this either, as they come across a wide variety of blossoms.

 Despite previous concerns, the urban environment is exceedingly suitable for bees. Many analyses of local honey have been done and no traces of heavy metals, smog or other pollutants have been found. Numerous awards for “urban honey” stand as a testament to its quality. The National Bees also produce honey; however, the four hives do not make a great quantity of it. The bees need to keep part of the honey for themselves, and what is left of it is used at very few representative events.

Thus, the city poses more problems for the beekeepers than the bees. Not all locations are suitable for hives and even fewer properties are sizeable enough. Locals might also complain about the presence of bees for various reasons. They might have allergies, or even fear of bees (known as apiphobia). It is also hardly surprising that some people might dread the so called “swarming”. This phenomenon can occur when the hive is too crowded, or a new queen appears, and the swarm is looking for a place to settle and mate. This has happened once at The National Theatre historic building, where a massive swarm of bees flew to the Václav Havel Square and proceeded to scare the passers-by. Such events require the help of a beekeeper, who can catch the swarm and find a new hive for it. However, when faced with a bee swarm, one needn’t worry. Swarming bees are too preoccupied with other matters and aren’t concerned about bystanders.

The National Bees have now awoken from their winter slumber, and we cordially invite everyone to come and meet the bees and our beekeeper at a special event suitable even for children.

The entire family can visit The National Theatre hives at the so called “St. Apollinaire’s” (Viničná 3, Prague 2). Beekeeper Anna Vodrážková will tell you about bee life in the city, show you the beekeeping craft, and you will get to taste the National Bees’ honey. The event is free, but the 0 CZK tickets must be pre-ordered on The National Theatre website. Suitable for children 6 years and older.

For more info, see the ND+ side events or e-mail