SINGAPORE - In the garden of a semi-detached house in central Singapore, a wooden box rests inconspicuously at the foot of a young tree. Few people know that this ordinary-looking box is a beehive nesting thousands of honeybees.
It belongs to Mr Thomas Lim, 30, an urban farmer at Edible Gardens - an environmental movement seeking to design, build and maintain food gardens in Singapore's urban jungle.
"Our company first ventured into beekeeping about a year ago to complement our main business of growing food gardens," Mr Lim said.
"Bees help pollinate flowers up to 500m away from their hives, and so play an important role in a garden city like Singapore. "Given that bees are always around us, rearing them in these relatively secluded backyard beehives reduces the likelihood of hives being constructed elsewhere, like on air-conditioner boxes, mailboxes and treetops, where they pose a much greater danger," he said.
He is one of a small but growing group of Singaporeans who welcome the yellow-and-black-striped insects.
But they remain a minority, and Mr Lim is aware of this.
Despite his belief in the value of bees, he is hesitant about telling his neighbours about the beehive in his garden.
"Like most Singaporeans, they would probably get paranoid about getting stung and (would) call the pest control company," he said. Would you welcome bees buzzing in your backyard? Most people The New Paper spoke to were hesitant.
A businessman father of three teenage children, who lives in a terrace house in the Sembawang area, said: "I'd call the pest exterminator immediately."
Said another, a 64-year-old engineer and father of two who lives in a terrace house in the Toh Tuck area: "I'd only call pest control if they (the bees) pose a danger to my family."
Two months ago, a pest control company mistakenly doused one of Mr Lim's two successful beehives with insecticide, destroying thousands of bees in it.
Natural beehives hanging from trees are also frequently destroyed.
Most local varieties of honeybees are not aggressive, says Mr Lim, and will not attack unless antagonised.
Mr Lim's remaining beehive is one of 10 beehives he has loaned or sold to nature enthusiasts keen on backyard apiculture - the maintenance of honeybee colonies - over the past six months.
Although urban beekeeping is only slowly catching on in Singapore, cities like Berlin, Paris and London have long had a history of apiculture.
Hundreds of beehives have emerged atop residential and office buildings, and lobby groups for beekeeping hobbyists have grown. What began as a way to pollinate urban gardens has evolved into a symbol of corporate sustainability, with cafes, department stores, hotels and even the White House now also home to bees.
Edible Gardens wants to promote the practice in Singapore.
It will loan and install ready-made empty beehives in your backyard for free.
It also smokes the beehive with charcoal, and treats it with lemon grass scent and beeswax to attract bees.
After that, said Mr Lim, you wait.
"It is a matter of luck."
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