Bees, bees, bees… In conversation with LNPC Ranger, Meetal Patel

Meet Meetal Patel, a National Park City Ranger with a passion that buzzes – bees. By day, he navigates the corporate world of insurance, but when the office hours end, he embarks on a journey that’s a world apart. For over a decade, Meetal has been engrossed in the intricate world of bees, a journey that has reshaped his perspective on urban environments and biodiversity.

Meetal’s fascination with bees was ignited by a short talk that sparked his curiosity. As he delved deeper into the complex world of these creatures, his casual interest blossomed into a full-blown passion. After a summer course on beekeeping, he found himself managing his own hive. Today, he’s part of a wider community of beekeepers in London, collectively managing about 25 hives that house roughly 1.75 million bees at the height of summer.

Meetal bees

Meetal’s journey with bees is about more than just the art of beekeeping. It’s a tale of understanding the intricate dynamics of urban ecologies, educating the public, and advocating for biodiversity. As he deepened his relationship with bees, Meetal became more attuned to the urban environment. He started noticing the subtle yet significant details – food availability for pollinators, the competition between them, and the potential disruptions to their ability to thrive in the city.

Bees, in Meetal’s experience, are a lens through which we can view and understand our cities. They are an indicator species, their health and behaviour providing a snapshot of the urban environment’s overall health. When bees thrive, it’s a sign that the urban ecosystem is balanced. Conversely, when bees struggle, it’s often an indication of larger environmental issues at play, such as pollution, lack of green spaces, or the use of harmful pesticides.

This understanding of bees as both indicators and contributors to urban ecologies has led Meetal to become an active advocate for biodiversity. He challenges decisions that could harm bees and other pollinators, pushing for more green spaces, fewer pesticides, and a more holistic approach to urban planning. He engages with councils, developers, and other decision-makers, advocating for policies and practices that support biodiversity.

Meetal’s passion for bees extends beyond the hives and into the community. He has developed a series of educational workshops that use bees and the honey they produce as a tool to explore broader ecological concepts. These workshops serve as a platform to break down the perceived dichotomy between rural and urban, demonstrating that cities can be wild, diverse, and a source of a wide variety of food and flavours.

Meetal honey

In these workshops, Meetal uses the honey produced by his hives to explore notions of locality and the origin of our food. Participants get a chance to taste honey from different hives, each with its unique flavour profile influenced by the local flowers visited by the bees. This sensory experience serves as a tangible reminder of the direct connection between our urban environment and the food we consume.

But the workshops are not just about tasting honey. They are about understanding the complex web of life that supports us. Meetal uses the workshops to educate participants about the importance of bees and other pollinators, the role they play in our food systems, and the threats they face in our urban environments.

While bees are the main focus, Meetal emphasizes that there are hundreds of other species of pollinators out there that often go overlooked. His educational efforts aim to extend beyond bees to incorporate all nonhumans, blurring the boundaries between urban and rural, highlighting the city as a key ecosystem that we humans can help to architect and sculpt for the sake of multispecies flourishing. 

By facilitating encounters with nature, Meetal’s workshops help participants to build a relationship with the natural world based on care and respect. This relationship can serve as a powerful motivator for pro-environmental behaviours, encouraging individuals to take action to protect and enhance biodiversity in their local communities.

In this way, Meetal’s workshops serve as a catalyst for change, inspiring individuals to become advocates for biodiversity and to take action to support the health and diversity of our urban ecosystems. Through education and direct engagement with nature, Meetal is helping to build a community of care that extends well beyond individual species and aligns itself with all ecology.

As Meetal’s journey with bees and biodiversity continues to unfold, he is keen to share his passion and knowledge with others. He believes that change starts at the grassroots level, with individuals and communities taking action to support biodiversity in their local environments. To this end, he encourages others to get involved in their local communities, especially in planting groups and other initiatives that support urban biodiversity.

Meetal stand

Meetal’s own involvement with the community extends to London National Park City where he volunteers as a Ranger. The greener, healthier and wilder ethos resonates with him as it challenges the binary between urban and rural and forces people to imagine the city differently. It provides a platform for advocating for more green spaces, more biodiversity, and a more holistic approach to urban planning. As a Ranger, Meetal is able to use his knowledge and passion for bees and biodiversity to contribute to the NPC’s mission of making cities greener, healthier, and wilder.

But being a Ranger is not just about advocating for change at the policy level. It’s also about engaging with individuals and communities, inspiring them to see their city in a new light, and empowering them to take action to support biodiversity. It’s about fostering a sense of stewardship and an ethic of care for the urban environment and all its inhabitants, human and nonhuman alike.

In the end, Meetal’s story is a testament to the power of passion and the potential of every individual to make a difference. His journey with bees has not only reshaped his own perspective but also inspired others to see their cities in a new light. It’s a reminder that our urban environments are not just concrete jungles, but thriving ecosystems that we can help nurture. So, let’s take a leaf out of Meetal’s book and start today. Let’s make our cities greener, healthier, and wilder for all inhabitants, human and nonhuman alike. After all, every small action counts, and together, we can create a buzz of change.

If you want to learn more about Meetal’s beekeeping and find out about workshops and opportunities, make sure to check out the Pearly Queen Honey website and follow Meetal @PearlyQueenHoney on Instagram

Meetal was interviewed by Patrick Geoghegan, currently studying for his PhD in sustainable cities, who supports research and learning at the National Park City Foundation.

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