Rome, bees and honey

My urban apiary is now located in the park of the German Accademy Rome Villa Massimo.


I am a trained gardener and a passionate beekeeper. I like the very „old“ as much as I am fascinated by the „contemporary“.

When I started my urban beekeeping enterprise stadtbienenhonig 2007 in Berlin, I put hives on empty roof-tops as a form of an appropriation of unused space combined with the experiment of letting bees fly in open public space. At the time, old beekeepers would not tell their neighbors that they have bees in the garden, not wanting them to be scared and upset.

I invited a lot of friends to share the experience and to encourage a discussion about the role of bees and how their lives are connected to ours.

Meanwhile I moved to Rome, where I am now tending a small apiary at the German Accademy Rome Villa Massimo. We are also working on transforming the 100year old park towards a more beefriendly urban nature site. The past 3 years of harvesting honey were already interesting regarding the taste of honey but in the future it will be even more exiting, when all the young trees which we planted last winter will establish themselves as nectar sources, not only for our honeybees, but for all bees in the neighborhood.

I love honey and I love observing their survival strategies. Some colonies are eternal, others rather short-lived. The less intervention there is, the better, which means, caring and observation on a very high level. Bees are the artists - while making honey, producing wax, building combs and surviving over the years. Together we can make something that is called nature_culture.

studying best moments for harvesting

Honey is a carrier substance: It’s a natural produce made exclusively by honeybees. Bees forage within 3 km from the hives and collect water, nectar and pollen. They also produce enzymes. Making honey is a complex process within the hive. Each honey tells a story. It is the result of a combination of weather, moods of the hives, diversity of plants and beekeeping activity that leaves traces in the honey. Honey keeps a memory. I did a lot of studies with my 20 beefamilies in Berlin on roof-top-apiaries spread throughout the city. 

Mediterranean flora and climate is kind of the opposite. I am still working on the new rhythm of the hives and the new bee flora for making good honey. In Rome we have sub-tropical climate and we experience a second spring in September/October. Last year it was even the atmosphere like early summer. Is it a sign of climate change or was it an exception?

I could harvest honey at the beginning of November. It was surprising: The color, the taste and the time of the year. Eriobotrya japonica was the main nectar source! It’s an introduced tree species, original from Asia, that is flowering in October. The white flowers smell like Marzipan, so did the honey…

Honey shows transformed sun-light, if the honey ripens in fresh wax combs. White combs are permeable and after the ripening honey keeps a glooming light. When you pour honey in a glass it will form a band. It’s not running like water. It’s folding.

Summer honey includes: Robinia, Ailanthus, Ligustrum, Myrtle, Malva, Thymian

Early summer honey includes the winter flowering and early spring flowering plants: Almond, Peach and Citrus, Rosmarin, Echium, Lavandula, Viola - it’s got much more amber color.

Urban Honey Berlin (2008-2020)

One Honey is never the same as another honey and so you can never talk about honey as a singularity. Honey is planetary. An entire world is reflected in it. It is because many factors affect the composition and texture: Weather conditions, nectar and pollen supply within the flight circle, health condition of the bee colony, its housing, thus also the location and the care for the bees. In Berlin there are five main tree nectar sources. This is the basis for a good nectar and pollen supply for our honey bees and for a beautiful honey harvest.

My roof top honey is characterized by the taste of the main tree-species as well as by a water content that is relatively low. It is between 14,5 % and 17 %. In this condition fresh honey is rather viscous, mature honey in autumn more crystallized. I stir the honey only very little, in order to preserve the internal connection. When stirring I give therefore only a little momentum. Then it can happen that the honey throws honey blossoms in winter. This is to forgive him. In taste the year moves from woody to minty to strong.

Spring honey is harvested in May. It is a mixture of Norway maple, horse chestnut and cherry fruit and spring flowers like forget-me-not. The colour is reddish to maroon-brown. It remains liquid and clear for a long time. It's taste: more woody to nutty fruity.

The early summer honey is harvested in mid-June. It is characterized by the Robinia.  The taste ranges from sweetly mild and a greenish shimmer to herbaceous, spicy, minty, if a little lime is already present. This honey remains liquid for a long time.

The summer honey is harvested at the end of June/beginning of July. It is stronger, more yellow, darker and it will crystallize faster. It is characterized by the lime tree, the Tree of Heaven and the Maron Chestnut. Depending on the time of spinning, it also contains honeydew from the lime tree, which makes it taste even stronger and sometimes maltier.

Honey Harvest Berlin

Usually I harvest several times at the apiaries, but always only a few combs. I pay attention to ripe honey.
My honey is centrifuged by hand and carefully treated in every step. Honey is a carrier and it has a memory. Real honey is healthy and stimulates our mind. In my beekeeping there is a game with many unknowns and so the honey tastes different every year.

Honey Analyzes

The quality of my honey is above all characterized by a low water content (below 17.5 %) (pdf 701 water content) and high invertase activity. (

This is a value that shows the enzyme activity of sugar conversion in honey and it is considered as a sign of nature’s own. If honey is heated or if honey is old, the value and consequently also the activity decreases. On the global honey market a minimum value of 64 is required. In the analyses my peak value was above 400.

Some ingredients, such as inhibins (substances that inhibit bacteria), are sensitive to heat and light. Therefore, it is important not to heat the honey for consumption. It also likes to be stored in a dry, cool and dark place, i.e. in the cupboard.

I prefer to harvest pure flower honeys. This is shown in the annual honey analyses by the electrical conductivity value of less than 0.5 mS/cm.

The pollen analyses also show, among other things, how great the plant diversity in Berlin is! More than 500 pollen samples were analyzed for each analysis. 

These can be attributed to 25 different plants and plant genera. A dream!

About Me

I am concerned with human-nature relationships in urban space. I am interested in contemporary care measures. I like working in the garden, touching the ground with my hands. I love to do beekeeping. I am engaged in a reinterpretation of beekeeping in an urban context. It shall incorporate a spiritual connection to the bees as well as a contemporary technique. It is about recognising bees as equal parts wildlife, pets and livestock, further it is about sharing a daily moment with them - but not in your own garden but on public or/and unused land, harvesting delicious honey, all handmade and at a slow pace, from nectar sources that belong to the city and can be used as commons, and it is about sharing the good honey among friends.