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Some overnight accommodations have serious buzz: They keep bees.
Story by Hope S. Philbrick
Choosing overnight accommodations that keep bees on the property can have some sweet benefits: You might get a taste of the honey those bees produce when you order a breakfast biscuit, salad dressed with house-made vinaigrette, glazed veggies or meats, or even a cocktail at the on-site restaurant or bar.
The practice of keeping bees at a hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts is growing nationwide. That’s great news for foodies since according to the experts at Provenance Hotels in Portland, Oregon, there has been a dramatic drop in the U.S. honeybee population in the past six years, with almost 10 million hives wiped because of colony collapse syndrome. The ailment is caused by risk factors common to large beekeeping operations, so fostering small colonies of urban bees helps with the recovery of the overall bee population.
Here are just a few places to consider staying if sleeping near hives sounds like the Bee’s Knees to you.
The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, Autograph Collection – Denver, Colorado
The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa in Denver, Colorado is supplying in-room amenities worth keeping. The new Rooftop Honey amenity line of facial and bath soap, bath gel, shampoo, conditioner and hand and body lotion is made with real honey produced on the hotel’s roof!
Back in 2010, The Brown Palace began to keep a colony of bees on the roof, intending to use the honey in beauty products since honey is known to moisturize, work as an anti-aging agent and fight bacteria. The sweet smelling, paraben-free Bee Royalty amenity line is created with natural essences and honey harvested from the hotel’s rooftop beehives. They’re used in The Brown Palace Spa and are available for sale exclusively at the spa.
The hyper-local honey is also served at the hotel’s signature afternoon tea and has even been used in producing a specialty craft beer served in the hotel’s Ship’s Tavern.
Each of The Brown’s beehives has its own clever name such as “Buzzingham Palace.”
Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile – Chicago, Illinois
Bees have had a home in the Windy City for over 10 years. The Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile keeps four hives with approximately 500,000 Carniolan honey bees. The hotel has successfully farmed these bees on the 9th floor rooftop for the past 10 years with an annual harvest of approximately 60 gallons of honey. In addition to the environmental benefits, the hotel uses this honey in its unique crafted items such as Rooftop Honey IPA—which is brewed in partnership with Brickstone brewery and is only available at the hotel—craft cocktails at Rush bar, house-made granola, pastries and desserts, and house-spun honey gelato. The bees also serve as an educational tool.
The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel – San Francisco, California
In San Francisco, California, The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel keeps 10 hives on its roof with over 10,000 honeybees. Since the initiative was launched in 2015, the honey produced has been used in the hotel’s craft cocktails as well as dishes such as the compressed watermelon salad with lavender-infused honey and goat cheese, honeycake, honey-roasted maitake mushrooms served with Mary’s organic crispy-skin chicken breast, as well as drizzled or puddled onto charcuterie boards.
The hotel was one of the first in San Francisco to keep bees. The hives are arranged to mimic San Francisco’s skyline and are tended by local beekeeper Roger Garrison. Guests can visit the rooftop apiary and garden by request.
Residence Inn and Courtyard New York Manhatan/Central Park
This dual-branded hotel was the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere when it opened, and the bees buzzing on this roof live on the highest level in New York City. They’re called “The Broadway Bees.” A total of six hives is up on the roof, each with approximately 5,000 to 10,000 bees living more than 700 feet above the city sidewalks. This year, honey is being cultivated to be used in a Broadway Bees cocktail (available soon). The hotel also uses the bees as an educational tool.
Hotel Lucia, Hotel deLuxe & Sentinel Hotel – Portland, Oregon
Since 2014, Provenance Hotels has partnered with Bee Local to keep honeybees on the roofs of its three properties in downtown Portland, Oregon: Hotel Lucia, Hotel Deluxe and Sentinel. The goal is to produce honey while ensuring the sustainability of the practice for years to come.
The honey harvested from the hotel hives is featured on hotel menus. At Imperial at Hotel Lucia, honey is in the popular fried rabbit dish as well as in the Harlequin cocktail. Honey is highlighted in the Local Honey cocktail at Hotel deLuxe’s Driftwood Room.
“Commercially farmed bees typically pollinate a field of just one crop, and the honey is a byproduct. A diverse urban foraging diet is beneficial for bees and results in healthier hives and honey with nuanced flavors that reflect the ecology of the local area,” explained Damian Magista, Bee Local’s founder. “The bees that live at the hotels will only visit plants within a small radius of the hive, so when you taste the honey, you will truly be getting a taste of the neighborhood,” Hotel Lucia’s Chef Paley added.
Provenance Hotel guests who want to take the honey home can purchase a small, airline-friendly jar from the in-room honor bars for $6.
Pursell Farms – Sylacauga, Alabama
Situated in the Central Alabama foothills about 45 minutes from Birmingham, Pursell Farms is a 3,200-acre destination resort with meadows, mountains and rolling farmland. It’s a great place to golf, relax at the spa, eat like royalty—and house bees.
The folks at Pursell Farms are keenly aware of the interconnectedness between the land and the table. The freshest ingredients are sourced for menus, and that includes tapping into the on-site beehives. About 300 pounds of honey are produced each year, a practice marketing director Tim Spanjer learned in upstate New York and brought to the resort in 2011.
The color of the honey varies, with the 2017 batch showing a very deep amber due to the abundance of plum bloom nectar. This year’s profusion of clover will yield a lighter shade of deep amber honey.
The kitchen uses the honey in its glazes, balsamic reductions and dressings, as well as peanut brittle and sweet corn ice cream. The honey is also sold at the resort’s mercantile store, although the small quantities tend to quickly disappear from shelves.
Radisson Blu Mall of America – Bloomington, Minnesota
Radisson Blue Mall of America—the first hotel attached to the nation’s No. 1 tourist destination, the splendid Mall of America—began a partnership with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad, an organization devoted to helping the community foster healthy bee populations, in June 2015. Under the initiative, two Honeybee colonies, each with about 10,000 bees, live on the hotel’s roof.
Radisson Blu Mall of America was the first hotel in the Twin Cities to officially house honeybee colonies from the University of Minnesota Bee Squad. The hotel is an ideal home for the honeybee colonies since it’s located near highways where there is reduced use of pesticides, sits next to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and is within very close proximity to Long Meadow Lake and the Minnesota River.
Honey from the bee colonies is used with delicious results in dishes and cocktails at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, the farm-to-table restaurant located inside the hotel, including the pit smoked duroc pork ribs.
The Reynolds Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn – Asheville, North Carolina
Innkeeper Billy Sanders started keeping bees when he was 16 years old, and he continues to do so at The Reynolds Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina. “I have always had bees no matter where we have lived,” he says. “I know everyone likes to think they could be a beekeeper, but I really think it takes a special person to succeed with beekeeping.” He thanks bees for teaching him life lessons like “patience, calmness, appreciation for my environment and the world’s environment, gratitude for the ability to taste” and, of course, the joy of tapping into the sweet pleasure of honey.
Sanders typically maintains 10 to 12 bee hives. The honey he harvests is used across his breakfast menu in “all the breakfast items we cook—biscuits, pies, pancakes, granola, etcetera, and also in hot tea, and as a sweetener for other items as well,” he says.
The honey he harvests is usually available all year, though quantities ultimately depend upon the bees. “Due to weather conditions that vary from year to year, sometimes what beekeepers call the ‘Honey Flow’ can be slim so honey may not be as plentiful,” says Sanders. When sufficient quantities are produced, he will bottle the honey and make it available for sale to guests. “You would need to be a guest of Reynolds Mansion to try our honey and buy some as we do not sell to retail stores,” he admits. It’s a sweet reason to visit the magnificent historic property.
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island – Amelia Island, Florida
Bees live a resort lifestyle in Florida at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island in the Chef’s Garden. Approximately 200,000 bees live in the colony on site. They produce honey for the Spa’s Honey Butter Wrap as well as Coast restaurant’s Citrus Honey Butter. (The restaurant specializes in seafood and partners with local farmers and fishermen to ensure freshness and quality.) Honey is also used in the Lobby Bar in the Amelia Blossom Drink.
Traveling with a group? Meeting planners can reserve a Honey Break which showcases bees in an enclosed honeycomb while the beekeeper demonstrates a harvest, followed by a tasting of infused honeys and Honey Cake.
According to those in the know at Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel…
Each beehive contains one queen (which lays about 1,500 eggs a day during spring build-up and can live five years or more), female worker bees (which collect pollen and nectar in their last stage of their lifetime of 30 days or so by communicating to one another where the food source is to be found through a behavior known as the waggle dance), and drones or male bees (which are expelled from colonies late fall and won’t reappear until early spring for its sole purpose of mating with a virgin queen).
One ounce of honey could fuel a single bee’s flight around the world.