Hotels abuzz with onsite beekeeping

Hotels abuzz with onsite beekeeping

Chef prepares food

A chef at the Fairmont Yangcheng Lake in China prepares a dish using the property’s freshly harvested honey.

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—The realm of sustainable hotel operations is abuzz, and the sound isn’t merely metaphorical.

In one of the newest—and sweetest—trends in the “green” movement, hotel companies such as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International are engaging in on-site beekeeping, offering guests the honey as well as the experience of interacting with their hive-dwelling hotel residents.

Fairmont counts some 15 hotels around the world with hives. The Fairmont San Francisco, for example, has four hives (including four queen bees), which produce as much as 150 pounds of honey each year.

The harvest plays a complementary role in the property’s kitchen, where executive chef JW Foster incorporates the honey into everything from dressings to fish cures to afternoon tea.

Accor’s Pullman brand takes a similar approach for its sponsored, off-site hives. “The honey collected from hives sponsored by Pullman hotels has been featured on our breakfast menu in dishes that include honey,” said Kerrie Hannaford, VP of global sales North America, in the company’s annual report.

But while the honey harvest plays a crucial role in various bee-related initiatives, the main goal is education.

“The main thing is to get the awareness out there,” chef Foster said.

A bee problem

The rise of urban beekeeping comes at a time when the North American honey bee population is witnessing significant, unexplained declines.

That’s why Pullman launched its “Bee Friendly” campaign—to “help address the problem” and “fund a research program with a check for €100,000 (US$143,261),” according to the group’s annual report.

At the Fairmont San Francisco, Foster educates local culinary students by bringing them on site to assist with the beekeeping and harvesting process. He also offers tours to any guest who feels so inclined.

“We offer anyone that comes into the restaurants or just hears about it, I’m more than happy to take anybody to come up to see them,” he says, adding the hives are also visible through glass panels for those who feel more comfortable observing the bustling bees from a distance.

“The more people that get to experience it and be involved with it the better,” he added.

At Joie de Vivre’s Carmel Valley Ranch, the property offers a signature beekeeping program on Tuesday and Saturday mornings at the on-property apiary. Led by the property’s beekeeper and lavender expert, guests can don protective suits for a close-up educational experience about the habits of bees or observe from a distance through the apiary’s clear Plexiglas window.

The expert touch

David Mendes, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, applauded the hotel industry’s efforts, and suggested hoteliers seek the assistance of experienced beekeepers in their efforts.

“Keeping beehives alive and healthy has become much more difficult in recent years, and I hope that the new beekeepers will not get discouraged if they lose some of their hives each winter,” he said.

Local beekeepers can provide support and offer educational opportunities for a hotel to promote its efforts, he added.

The Fairmont San Francisco works with the experienced beekeeping team at Marshall’s Farm for its campaign. “They actually do the maintenance, keep an eye on them, and they come for the harvest obviously,” Foster said.

Under their guidance, the hotel’s bees have thrived in their new rooftop setting.

“They’ve done very well with it,” he said. “They’re like us. They adapt very well to the surroundings we put them into.”

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The purpose of this website is to promote honey beekeeping by providing a forum in which current honey beekeepers may become more knowledgeable of best practices and the public can become more, and accurately, informed on the benefits of honey bees. For more info or comments, contact Jeff Crooks at