Hotels build beehives for honey, awareness


May 30, 2016
AP Chef Thomas Weibull drizzles honey over a watermelon salad at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. At least seven San Francisco hotels have built rooftop beehives that produce honey for food, cocktails and spa products.

At the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, there are more than 370 rooms inside and 100,000 bees buzzing above in rooftop hives outside. Yes, honeybees.

Aware of the well-publicised environmental threats to honeybees that have reduced numbers worldwide, seven San Francisco hotels have built hives on their rooftops. The sustainability effort also benefits the hotels as the bees produce honey for cocktails, food and spa treatments. It's the latest in a series of environmental programmes at hotels that includes low-flow toilets and aggressive recycling programmes.

"This is not about making money, it's really about raising awareness about sustainability," said Melissa Farrar, spokeswoman at the Fairmont in San Francisco. "There's not one solution, so we wanted to do our part to help. It's part of the bigger effort for helping the planet."

Farrar said the four hives on the rooftop garden support about 250,000 bees and produce about 1,000 pounds of honey each year.

In this foodie city, the honey is used in such things as the Clift's Purple Haze drink with gin-infused lavender, honey syrup and lavender bitters, and their compressed watermelon salad with lavender-infused honey and goat cheese. Honey is used in beer at the Fairmont Hotel, and the jars of the product are sold in the gift shop. At the W, they make honey ice cream.

At the Clift, high above the city on the rooftop garden, 10 hives are buzzing with activity. Most guests don't even know they are there. But the fruits of their labour are evident in the cocktails and food. You won't find the squeezable honey bear container in Chef Thomas Weibull's kitchen. "Since we are chefs in California, we like to use a lot of things that are local," he said, talking about his pork adobo appetiser with a honey glaze. "Ninety-five per cent of our products are local and sustainable."

The bees produced more than 70 pounds of honey last year and are on track to do much more this year. The colony is expected to grow to 800,000 by next year, said General Manager Michael Pace. His interest in bee hotels started last year when he took on the job of chairman of the Sustainability Committee for the Hotel Council of San Francisco. He spearheaded a larger effort between numerous local hotels to put bees on their rooftops as well. There are now seven hotels from Nob Hill to Fisherman's Wharf with rooftop hives.

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