Travelling through the countryside of Sweden, product designer Michael Leung was intrigued by the site of two burgundy beehives on a snow-covered hill. He chatted with the bee keepers who gave him his first taste of beekeeping.
After returning to Hong Kong 10 months ago, the 27-year-old London native has not forgotten his trip. He visited Yip Ki-hok of Wing Wo Bee Farm, one of the two honey producers in Hong Kong. Yip generously shared what he knows about beekeeping with the young designer.
At the farm, Leung held his first bee frame and came to realise that bees are not as scary as he thought, and that if he can do this, anyone can. Yip also asked him to collect a wild hive on a hillside near Sha Tin. The experience further inspired Leung's passion.
'I want people to experience what I experienced, and to appreciate the value of bees and locally produced honey,' says Leung. He set up HK Honey in January and launched his first collection of honey products in July.
The company sells locally produced honey products and foods, including candles made of beeswax. 'The candles are all natural so they won't release any toxic fumes while burning.'
Leung keeps two hives on the rooftop of a friend's place in Ngau Tau Kok. Each hive houses 10,000 bees. 'These are Chinese bees, which I bought from Yip's farm. They are more aggressive than Western bees,' he says.
Leung says some local beekeepers are sceptical about keeping bees in the city, but that hasn't discouraged him.
'At first, I was worried whether my bees would find food around the neighbourhood. But they seem to be doing fine. It is a good experiment for me. People in London and New York keep bees in the city.'
In addition to selling honey, Leung wants to use his experience to teach. 'I want to let people know bees are good for us. They are an important part of food chain - they pollinate and help our flowers and vegetables grow. My plan is to tour schools and talk to students about beekeeping,' he says.
'I also hope to work together with cafes in Hong Kong.'
He has already made a deal with a cafe on Temple Street to sell drinks made from his honey. 'People should buy local products because it helps reduce their carbon footprint,' he says.
Visit www.hkhoney.org to learn about beekeeping and register for a workshop with Michael Leung
Pearl is a Young Post intern
How to keep bees
Maintain the frames and make sure the bees are working on the frames and not in an obscure corner.
Check for geckos and bugs, especially cockroaches, which are common in Hong Kong.
Never hit bees. It aggravates them and they will sting you. Otherwise, they are harmless.
Bees like flowers such as California poppies, sunflowers and lavender.
Bees seem to dislike black or red so don't wear these colours. Perfume also confuses them.