World Bee Day 2024

17th May 2024

Question: What do Manchester, Ripon and St Edmundsbury cathedrals have in common? (Ed – apart from being cathedrals)

World Bee Day. Celebrating the bumble bee and it’s role in caring for creation.

Answer: They all have beehives on their rooftops.

On World Bee Day – we are celebrating the humble bee – and giving a big shout-out to the cathedrals of Manchester, Ripon and St Edmundsbury.

Each of these cathedrals is home to colonies of bees, producing honey unique to each cathedral and other honey and bee- inspired products are on sale in their cathedral shops.

Other cathedrals provide homes for these pollinators with rewilding projects or bug hotels.

The bee is an important symbol for the city of Manchester – bees can be found decorating some of the furniture inside Manchester Cathedral – and the cathedral first put hives on its rooftops in 2012. It is now home to around ¼ million bees, and the project has spread to hives on top of Salford Cathedral and a local hotel.

The hives are cared for Volition volunteers, led by Volition Beekeepers Cath Charnock and Jenni Nirmala. Volition is a cathedral initiative that offers work experience, work placements, support and advice for long-term unemployed.

 You can watch a video on the project here: Manchester Cathedral’s Rooftop Beekeeping Volunteer Programme (

Ripon Cathedral has one hive up on its roof and has created a special rewilded area in the cathedral grounds to attract the pollinators. It produces honey and honey products from its Venerable Bees – named after the cathedral ran a competition to name their products.

And St Edmundsbury too launched its own range of honey and honey products last year. It has four hives on its roof, which means the bees forage throughout the Abbey Gardens and historic ruins of the Abbey of St Edmund – just as the bees of the Benedictine monks would have done in medieval times.

Honeybees have an average foraging radius of two to three miles, so the flavour and colour of the honey they produce depends on the type of flowers from which the bees gather nectar.

The honey is harvested late in the season to ensure the bees have access to the widest possible array of flora. It is carried down narrow stone steps from the rooftop and spun out of the frames before being put into jars.

At no stage is the honey fine-filtered or heated above 35 degrees Celsius (the temperature inside a beehive) so that it goes into the jars with all the pollen enzymes and antimicrobial goodness still intact and to give a real taste of the Cathedral and its environs.

Happy World Bee Day!