Also Waldorf-Astoria New York now into beekeeping

Hotels and restaurants have become a hive of activity in recent years as urban beekeeping grows in popularity on the rooftops of some of the most iconic landmarks around the world.

The latest to join the beekeeping trend is the Waldorf-Astoria New York, which welcomed this spring 20,000 new guests to their rooftop penthouse where the bees will come to roost every day after sipping on nectar from nearby Central and Bryant Parks.

The hotel plans to harvest its own honey and help pollinate plants in the skyscraper-heavy heart of the city, joining a mini beekeeping boom that has taken over hotel rooftops from Paris to Times Square.

“Today about half the population of each hive, the foragers, are flying mostly in the direction of Central Park,” explained Andrew Cote, the Waldorf’s beekeeper-in-residence, on a recent sunny afternoon as he inspected each hive. “They’re plucking up pollen, nectar, water. They’re bringing it back to their hives, to their homes.”

Beekeeping is a natural fit for hotels trying to keep up with industry-wide pressure to “go green,” whether it’s retrofitting their buildings to make them energy efficient or simply adopting environmentally conscious practices.

Enter urban beekeeping, a buzz-worthy pastime nowadays.

The Waldorf’s first batch of honey is expected be ready for harvest by early summer.

Interest in urban beekeeping has become a growing trend within big cities, not only as a means towards sustainability but also as a secondary measure to resuscitate a species that has undergone traumatic stress over the last few years.  In a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, young larvae and pupae were being abandoned and left to fend for themselves, resulting in massive die-offs.  Theories abound as to possible causes, including pesticides, pathogens, genetically modified crops and cell phone radiation.

Why is their fate so important? Because pollinators like honeybees are responsible for one-third of the Western world’s food supply, says the beekeeping industry.

The Waldorf-Astoria follows in the heels of another local landmark in Toronto, Canada, where the Fairmont Royal York Hotel established an apiary in 2008. Last fall, beekeepers recorded their biggest haul to date, harvesting 800 lbs (363 kg) of honey that was used in the hotel restaurant.

It’s the same story in the City of Light, where colonies of bees get prime real estate atop iconic landmarks like the Palais Garnier, the rooftops of the Opera Bastille, the Grand Palais, and the Luxembourg Gardens.

Urban beekeeping is also popular in Berlin, London, Tokyo and Washington DC.

But it doesn’t come up all roses for urban honey-making. As pointed out by a 2010 story in US publication The Atlantic, bees are foragers who will gorge on anything that’s sweet, including artificial sugars from candy and maraschino cherry factories.


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