It’s Nice to be Nice by Hazel Nicholls
Hotels get into beekeeping business- LA Times
Upscale hotels are using on-site beehives to bring locally sourced honey to guests and to save dwindling colonies of honeybees…
From Honolulu to Paris and from Vancouver, Canada, to the Florida Keys, honeybees have taken up residence on hotel ledges, rooftops and balconies and are busy doing what they do best: pollinating plants and making honey.
The hives are part of a beekeeping movement that has a two-fold purpose: to save the species, which has been decimated by colony collapse disorder; and to bring hyper-local honey to guests staying at these hotels.
Urban beekeeping has been growing in popularity for several years. Opéra Garnier, the Paris opera house, has kept hives humming on the roof for more than a quarter of a century.
The Obamas hopped on the bandwagon earlier this year when they served White House Honey Ale, home-brewed by their chefs with honey from the White House beehive.
But the loudest buzz comes from the hospitality industry, where hoteliers have found on-site beehives another prong in the movement to localized sourcing. Hotels are adding beehives to their properties to produce organic honey for use in a variety of areas, from spa treatments to cocktails.
At the Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah — the Beehive State — dandelion and lavender honeys are popular and are served at Buzz, the resort coffee shop (montagedeervalley.com).
Eighteen Fairmont Hotels have added apiaries, mostly on rooftops. At the Fairmont Washington D.C., the hives are named Casa Blanca, Casa Bella and Casa Bianca; at the Fairmont Newport Beach, executive chef Chad Blunston works with beekeepers to extract honey for use in Bambu Restaurant; and at the Fairmont San Francisco, 50,000 honeybees produce honey to be used at the afternoon tea service.
Last month I stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia, where I could look down from my 20th-floor room and see six hives — and about half a million bees — in the center of a third-floor balcony herb garden. The bees quietly went about their business within 20 feet of the hotel pool and within 50 feet of the mammoth Vancouver Convention Centre. Meanwhile, I snacked on a selection of the hotel’s delicate honey truffles, Bee’s Knees. In the dining room, I found a small jar of honey on the table at breakfast.
Despite the interest in saving bees, their numbers continue to dwindle.
In March, the United Nations sounded the alarm, seeking international efforts to save bee colonies, which have declined as much as 85% in some areas, particularly the industrialized Northern Hemisphere, according to a report by the U.N.’s environmental agency.
The causes: pesticides, air pollution, parasites, the loss of flowering plants and a decline in beekeepers in Europe.
“The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations’ Environment Programme.
“The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.”
In the greater scheme of things, the hoteliers’ beekeeping efforts probably aren’t “a blip on the radar for honey production or pollination input,” said Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine.
“But the promotional value far outweighs the practical application value,” he added. From the standpoint of the beekeeping community, the hotel trend is appropriate because “it keeps honey bees in front of people all the time, and featured in a very positive light.”
The bottom line, Flottum said: “The hotel wins, the bees win, beekeeping and beekeepers win, the local flora thrive, folks who never thought about where their food comes from get a little insight into that side of the business. It’s all good.”
John Russo, the beekeeper at Carmel Valley Ranch, couldn’t agree more. He runs a program there called the Bee Experience that introduces guests to beekeeping. “When people get enthused about the bees, and want to have their own hives, I feel like I’ve made a few more converts,” he said. “That’s a terrific feeling.”
Small beekeepers could be the solution to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
“We can thank the honeybee for four of every 10 bites of food we eat, so for area beekeepers, their efforts aren’t just about the honey. Many beekeepers feel they are doing their part in helping the survival of what is likely our most important domestic species.
The Lou Marchi Total Recycling Institute at McHenry County College (MCC) hosted a screening of the documentary Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us? Oct. 25, followed by a panel discussion with beekeepers from the Northern Illinois Beekeepers Association.
The critically-acclaimed film by Taggart Seigel tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of bees through stunning photography, humorous animations, and some very entertaining and colorful beekeepers.
The film looks at the 10,000-year history of honeybees as a domesticated species, from ancient times when honeybees were considered sacred to today’s corporate agriculture practice of shipping honeybees thousands of miles in flatbed trucks to pollinate almond groves in California and blueberries in Maine.
In recent years, honeybees have been disappearing mysteriously; America has lost millions of colonies. The sudden death of honeybee colonies is called Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers and scientists in the film point to chemical pesticides, single-crop farming or monoculture, and the industrialization of beekeeping as reasons for CCD.
“Their crisis is our crisis. It’s colony collapse disorder of the human being too,” said Gunther Hauk, a biodynamic beekeeper who operates Spikenard Farm, a honeybee sanctuary in Virginia.
Experts in the film see bees as a barometer of the health of the world. Queen of The Sun refers to Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner who predicted the collapse of honeybees in 1923. “The mechanization of beekeeping and industrialization will eventually destroy beekeeping,” Steiner predicted.
“We have to wake up early enough to make a change,” said biochemist and beekeeper David Heaf, in the documentary.
The film considers reasons for the crisis and presents solutions as well. Helping the honeybee survive can be as simple as growing bee-friendly flowers, shunning pesticides, and buying local, raw honey. Those really interested in helping honeybees should learn beekeeping.
“I really think that small time beekeepers are one of the solutions to the problem,” said Larry Krengel, a McHenry County beekeeper and panelist after the screening. Krengel is a member of the Northern Illinois Beekeeper Association and teaches beekeeping at MCC and other area colleges…
Like chicken keeping, many suburbs don’t allow beekeeping. However, big cities like Chicago and Milwaukee do allow both backyard chickens and beehives. Chicago’s City Hall even has beehives on its rooftop garden…”
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“It’s strange that we continue to vilify an insect that is so important to us. The negative attitude against bees can be seen when people start discussing urban beekeeping. Many cities, including the city of Edmonton, have not legalized urban beekeeping. This is a pretty sad, since urban bees add to food security and biodiversity within a city. People who argue against urban beekeeping say that it is a danger to people, because of the risk of death from bee stings. In fact, the proportion of people who are allergic to bee stings is quite small. Only about .4 per cent of the American population is allergic to bee stings. According to Statistics Canada, 22 people died from bee stings in Canada between 2000 and 2006. More people die each year from falling down stairs. Most bees will only sting if they are endangered, and most of the time, people are stung by wasps.
The lack of knowledge about bees and the role they play in pollination has hindered the urban beekeeping movement. I know a man who kept a hive of bees in his yard even though it wasn’t legal in Edmonton. He contacted his neighbours and told them he would be keeping a hive on his property. His neighbours told him they were fine with this. Then one day, an animal services officer showed up at his place and told him there had been a complaint. One of his neighbours had found out keeping bees in Edmonton was illegal, and she had reported him. The beekeeper had to remove his bees from the city or risk a $500 a day fine. He later found out which neighbour had reported him and asked her if his bees had been bothering her. She told him, with complete seriousness, “Well, they were all over my garden and were buzzing around my flowers.”
I wish people would realize the importance of the bee’s work, and work to preserve these fascinating creatures. People often talk about endangered tigers, polar bears or sharks, yet they don’t seem to think about what they can do to preserve the honeybee, a creature that has a more direct impact on the average human life than a tiger or a polar bear.
In my perfect world, urban beekeeping would be legal in all cities. Beekeeping would be as common as gardening and people would relax in their yards, drink a cup of tea sweetened with a spoonful of honey, and sit and watch their bees.”
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THE BEES OF BERLIN: The German capital is witnessing a beekeeping revival, which is good news for the environment.
Bee numbers are decreasing all over the world, including in Germany, where disease, mites and the use of insecticides have halved bee populations since the 1980s.
In Germany the problem is exacerbated by the increase in the age profile of beekeepers, which meant that the art of beekeeping was starting to die out – bad news for the environment, as bees pollinate about 80 per cent of all flowers including vegetable, fruit crops and deciduous trees.
Surprisingly, cities can play a key role in boosting bees’ numbers. With their diverse range of plant life and milder climates, they can actually provide better habitats for bees than rural areas, where monoculture farming is detrimental to their health.
The last few years has seen a huge resurgence of interest in urban beekeeping worldwide, and there are now 570 apiarists in Berlin alone.
Sinead O’Shea meets some of the enthusiastic new converts in the German capital who are helping to revive beekeeping.
Urban bee-keeping talk at Petersham Nurseries
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