Visitors to Zahira Nedjraoui’s Dubai home may not even notice that she keeps two beehives in her balcony.
“Bees are very discreet,” she said. “You don’t see them during the day, they go look for flowers miles away and come back.”
Ms Nedjraoui became an urban apiarist two years ago after catching the beekeeping bug while helping her father-in-law harvest his hives in Germany.
“The smell of the honey and wax at the same time, it is absolutely intoxicating,” said Ms Nedjraoui. “Once you get that, there is no turning back.”
This month, Ms Nedjraoui and fellow hobby beekeeper Jocelyn McBride launched the UAE’s first Beekeepers Association to be officially licensed by the Government. The not-for-profit group grew out of a Facebook community – called Dubai Bees – where recreational UAE apiarists meet online to share insights.
“We saw that there was quite some interest and everyone was meeting the same challenges of where to start, where to get the equipment, how to do it, when is the right time, when is the harvest time -- all these things,” said Ms Nedjraoui.
The group also became a go-to resource for members of the public seeking advice on how to safely remove or relocate bees’ nests that formed on their properties. Ms Nedjraoui saw the group as an opportunity to raise awareness about the value of bees and dispel myths about colonies.
“If someone has a swarm, like a hive in their garden, the first reflex is to call pest control, so this is what we’re trying to avoid. We are trying to educate people that bees are not pests, they are in danger in our days and killing them is not the solution,” said Ms Nedjraoui. “If they don’t present a direct danger to your babies or to your kids, just leave them. Let them be, they will move on eventually and it’s actually a great opportunity for learning.”
The Beekeepers Association also offers beekeeping workshops for adults and education programs for elementary schools. Ms Nedjraoui uses a glass observation hive to travel to schools and give children a close-up look at the busy bees. Schools may also visit a bee garden featuring different types of hives maintained by the association in Al Barari.
“This is one of the messages we want to explain -- that bees are beneficial, they pollinate, they make honey and one third of what we eat comes from plants that are pollinated by bees,” said Ms Nedjraoui. “These little messages work on the little ones, and the big ones too.”
The first Beekeepers Association meeting is scheduled for 9am November 4 in Dubai. For more information, visit beekeepersassociation.ae.