How Some Hotels are Creating ‘Rooftop Bee Sanctuaries’ to Help Bee Populations

One hive starting with 10,000 bees grew to 70,000

How Some Hotels are Creating Rooftop Bee Sanctuaries to Help Bee PopulationsThe world’s honeybees are in rapid decline. Due to pesticide exposure, disease, and more, there are 70% fewer of them now than there were just 70 years ago.

A number of hotels in San Francisco are sympathetic to the plight of these vital pollinators, and have turned their rooftops into sanctuaries for the fuzzy, winged creatures.

Millions of bees currently reside on the roofs of at least 7 luxury hotels in the city.

Beekeeper Spencer Marshall has seen the devastating bee decline firsthand. He told CBS News:

“When I started almost 50 years ago, if I lost two or three percent of my bees a year, that was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Now you lose 50, 60 percent. And it’s not sustainable.”

Marshall is a beekeeper at the Fairmont San Francisco, the first hotel in the city to install a bee sanctuary. At first, he thought the sanctuaries were just “good PR,” but now his rooftop hives produce 1,000 pounds of honey every year.

Fairmont sought Marshall’s help in 2010 with a goal of rebuilding the bee population. The flying insects pollinate $15 billion in crops in the U.S. annually. Yeah, a lot of food depends on bees and pollination.

Said Melissa Farrar, Fairmont’s marketing director:

“When I started almost 50 years ago, if I lost two or three percent of my bees a year, that was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Now you lose 50, 60 percent. And it’s not sustainable.”

The Clift Hotel in the city’s Union Square installed its bee sanctuary last May, with 1 queen and 10,000 bees. The sanctuary should fill with 70,000 bees, and that number is expected to grow to 800,000 by early 2017.

Michael Pace, general manager at the Clift, said he wanted to do his part, however small, to increase sustainability and get the bee population back on its feet. He told Hoodline that people frequently ask, “Is there enough greenery? Is there enough pollen?” Pace responds to those questions this way:

“You’d be surprised.”

He explained:

“I kind of created this web of bee hives that are kind of populating from one area to another and really helping repopulate the honey bee population, which you may have heard has been suffering over the past few years.”

Even in a sprawling city like San Francisco, honeybees still manage to find gardens and trees, often returning to the same places daily.

The hotels – which also include Holiday Inn and Express Fisherman’s Wharf, Omni San Francisco, W San Francisco, and Hotel Zetta – don’t let any of the precious honey go to waste.

The Fairmont’s Bee Sustainable Program – with more than 20 participating hotels around the world – uses honey in everything from food to spa treatments. The Fairmont brews its own honey beer, with plans to release a new honey ale soon.

Honey also goes into some of the Clift’s signature dishes, such as its compressed watermelon salad, and chef Thomas Weibull’s pintxo platter.

Pace says the hives produce about 70 gallons of honey annually.

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