Making a Beeline for Temasek Shophouse

Making a Beeline for Temasek Shophouse

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Nature can be found in the concrete jungle downtown. Amid the malls and skyscrapers, a colony of bees is slowly moving into a new urban home in the hopes of educating Singaporeans about their environmental benefits.

There is currently one hive at Temasek Shophouse, but there are plans to shift two to three more to the location eventually. Photo: Temasek

On the rooftop of Temasek Shophouse, there is literally a buzz that does not stop. Look closer, and you will see bees hovering around the garden. Before you call pest control, these bees are welcome guests – part of a new urban beekeeping project that was unveiled in July.

Managed by Temasek Shophouse and beekeeper Xavier Tan, this project aims to raise awareness about the benefits that bees bring to our ecosystem.

He runs Nutrinest, an enterprise that conducts educational workshops, beekeeping and non-lethal bee removal. Operating mainly at The Ashram, a halfway house in Sembawang, he keeps about 20 hives of various species of honey bees – that’s about 200,000 to 400,000 bees.

When he first started 10 years ago, he was stung 68 times in one sitting due to his inexperience handling the hives. Today, he only suffers the odd sting. Keeping bees has its rewards – he gets to harvest the honey and sell it on his website, with eye-catching flavours such as bitter gourd and cinnamon on the shelves.

There is currently only one hive at Temasek Shophouse, but he plans to shift two to three more to the location eventually. The honey produced will be incorporated into his workshops and visitors can learn how it is made and harvested.

As part of a new urban beekeeping project, local beekeeper Xavier Tan has been tasked by Temasek Shophouse to lead an effort to raise awareness about bees and their importance to our ecosystem. Photo: Temasek

Before you head up to the rooftop for a visit, here are five facts about bees:

1. Bees survive better in an urban environment compared to agricultural areas

Bees thrive in an urban environment due to the variety of flowers and plants, which offers a balanced diet that keeps bees healthy. Pesticides used in urban areas are also not as potent as the ones used in agriculture.

“There are so many flowers in Singapore so the bees have no lack of food. And people try to coexist with bees here,” Mr Tan said, adding that he’d convinced five to six people not to remove beehives near their homes if they aren’t disrupting their lives.”

 2. The bee population is declining worldwide

The global bee population is dipping for three reasons – their natural habitat is reducing due to urbanisation, a rise in monoculture plantations that lack a variety of plants for bees to pollinate, and widespread use of pesticides.

Mr Tan said a lot of Singaporeans don’t actually want to kill bees and prefer more humane forms of removal, so they call him instead of the pest control.

We should aim to grow edible plants because not only do they produce nectar and pollen, but also food for human consumption.

Mr Xavier Tan, Beekeeper, Nutrinest

3. Bees are nature’s pollinators

Remember Bee Movie? In the cute cartoon Hollywood movie, flowers and trees died after bees stopped “working” to collect pollen to turn into honey. It is true, bees do most of the pollination and are critical for the health of our biodiversity. Without them, our food supply will decrease and lead to a shortage.

Mr Tan said that tropical plants like bitter gourd, brinjal and lime are food we always eat, so it will benefit us and the bees.

4. The bees in Temasek Shophouse were relocated from Mandai Zoo development area

During the development of the Mandai Zoo area, bee hives were found and rehomed to a bee farm before they were relocated to the Shophouse. “We believe that bees play an important role in our ecosystem. In support of the urban bee-keeping pilot project, we have set aside a space on the rooftop of Temasek Shophouse for the pilot. It’s our way in playing an active role in making sure the wild bees are protected as we believe urban development can coexist with sustainability,” said Ms Cherine Ang, a staff of Stewardship Asia Center and a representative of Temasek Shophouse Bees Club.

A colony of bees is buzzing in the heart of town. Photo: Temasek

She added: “We would like to raise awareness about the huge benefits of bees to our ecosystem and biodiversity. By bringing plants, birds, butterflies and bees into Temasek Shophouse right in the heart of town, we are hoping to sustain nature’s biodiversity at the heart of Orchard Road. Eventually, we aim to invite the young and even the adults into Temasek Shophouse and share with them about the importance of bees and also how to interact safely with them.”

When the bees from Mandai were rehomed to Mr Tan’s bee farm, he said he kept the bees for a while before deciding they were good candidates for the Shophouse when he was approached to co-manage the bees-keeping project. “Beehives are almost everywhere, from Jurong Island to MBS. I can’t think of a place where I haven’t gone.”

We would like to show that it is possible for people and bees to co-habitat and serve as a successful test case that hopefully others can adopt.

Ms Cherine Ang, Representative of Temasek Shophouse Bees Club and a staff of Stewardship Asia Center

5. Bees are not dangerous

Beekeeping is uncommon in Singapore due to the lack of space as well as some people’s fear of bees. However, this fear is misplaced as bees do not sting indiscriminately.

“Currently, Temasek Shophouse only has stingless bees. We will increase the level of public engagement when more bees are introduced,” said Mr Tan.


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