By Aliki Kraterou
Tim Vivian is on a one-man mission to save Britain’s bees – and he’s gone so far to move 150,000 of them onto the roof of his city centre office so he can tend to them every lunchtime.
Tim, 55, has kept bees for 20 years, but has always struggled to fit in looking after his colonies around working as a computer programmer in Birmingham City Centre.
But when his company relocated to offices in the Custard Factory, in the Digbeth area of the city, he realised the building had a big, unused roof – and asked if he could move in his beehives.
Amazingly, the building owners approved – and now while his colleagues munch sandwiches at their desks, Tim enjoys popping onto the roof of his office at lunch time to tend to 150,000 bees and harvesting their honey, which he sells.
Tim said: “Instead of sitting at my desk eating sandwiches, I go up the roof and play with bees.
“Three bee hives is exactly right- I have enough time to change into my bee keeping equipment, go up there, inspect three bee hives and finish within an hour.
“The company I work for were relocating and one of the places they were looking, was the Custard Factory.
“Being nosy, I went along the fire escape and discovered the door to the roof was open – I had a quick look and thought it would be a great place to keep some beehives.
“I approached the Custard Factory’s management, they didn’t even let me finish my sentence before they said ‘yes’- they were very enthusiastic about it.
Tim has tried to get the building’s tenants as involved as possible, there was a poll to decide the honey’s name, ‘bee9’ and the jar’s labels have been designed by students of Birmingham University.
The dad-of-two, who lives in Worcester, has also given away leaflets for people who would like to spend their lunch break helping him tend the bees.
The organic honey is being sold at the reception of the building.
Tim says he initially got interested in beekeeping by chance 25 years ago but he enjoys it now and urges people to become beekeepers like him.
Both of his children have been involved in bee keeping, his daughter Lucy, 22 has a beekeeping qualification and his son Matt, 20 is always happy to help him out.
He added: “The first thing I do is to check the bees for diseases and make sure they have enough food.
“I also make sure the queen is still there and laying eggs- in the summer she will lay about 2000 eggs a day, that’s more of her entire body weight so it’s not exactly relaxing.
“At this time of year, I’m checking they have enough space to store the honey.
“Getting into beekeeping was completely accidental- I was talking to a colleague 25 years ago and said ‘it’d be interesting to see inside a beehive’ and he knew someone who had bee hives so we could have a look.
“I turned up at this man’s door and he said to me ‘I’m 85, I’m thinking of giving up bee keeping and I hear you are going to take over my bees.
“I took a deep breath and said’ I’d give it a go’- it has now become a very big hobby, I enjoy it, it’s great for the environment.
“Bumblebees and solitary bees are suffering a lot because of habitat loss so people come along and decide to tarmac their lawns or that they want a perfect garden rather than having lots of nice areas bees can borrow in.
“Anyone who wants to do their bit for bees, I’d advise them to grow flowers- it’s the best thing they can do.
“There is so much regeneration going around here , there are lots of corners and places for the bees to find, even though we are in the centre of Birmingham. “