Buzz-Worthy Design: Luxury Digs With Rooftop Bee Gardens

It's a sweet solution: luxury hotels are putting bee-friendly gardens on their rooftops. The payoff? Habitats for these tiny, endangered pollinators, and delicious honey for hotel bars and restaurants.

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Image courtesy of the Autograph Collection St. Ermin's Hotel

Photo By: Image courtesy of the St. Ermin's Hotel

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Courtesy Omni Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte

Photo By: Courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Charlotte

Photo By: Courtesy The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Photo By: Courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Bee Hotel at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Four hives in the rooftop garden at Quebec's Fairmont Le Château Frontenac keep the beekeepers busy, harvesting the sweet stuff three times a year. The hives hold over 70,000 honeybees that produce about 650 pounds of honey annually; bad weather can diminish the yield. Chefs use the honey for special banquet dishes and foods served in the fine dining room. This bee pollinator hotel features the copper roofing often found on Fairmont properties in Canada.

The Bee's Knees

Under the wise tutelage of bee-mistress Camilla Goddard the 300,000 resident Italian honeybees at the Autograph Collection St. Ermin's Hotel pollinate gardens throughout the city (include the Queen's own gardens at Buckingham Palace, just a hop, skip and jump away). Their honey is incorporated into cocktails and other fare at the hotel. Inquire about beekeeping classes and programs during your stay.

A Bee-Sourced Cocktail

A signature cocktail at the Autograph Collection St. Ermin's Hotel that uses honey from their on-site beehives, the Bowler Hat balances sweet and tangy flavors for the perfect garden sip. Want to try the Bowler Hat for yourself? The St. Ermin's shared their delicious recipe with HGTVGardens.

European Honeybees at Chateau Whistler

European honeybees help pollinate the plants in the rooftop garden at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in British Columbia. They arrived in 2013, in four hives that contained approximately 120,000 bees. Hotel chefs use the honey, which has the delicate flavor of nearby lupines and other wildflowers, to prepare foods and cocktails. In 2015, the hotel put up a new bee hotel for solitary bee "guests."

Bee Nesting Materials

You could say beekeeping has become a "buzz" word for the rooftop gardens at hotels around the world. Bees pollinate over 80 percent of our fruits, flowers and vegetables, yet their numbers are declining due to loss of habitat and other factors. The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is helping these important insects by providing nesting materials. The bees use twigs, soil, wood and pith (spongy, soft  tissue) to build nests where they can rest and reproduce.

Wild for Bees

Burt's Bees "Wild for Bees" campaign aims to promote bee health and sustainable agriculture. At the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, the chef's "Wild for Bees Pollinator Menu" includes grapefruits, lemons, asparagus, almonds and more--all foods that are pollinated by honeybees.

Bees on Amelia Island

Honey is used for spa treatments, honey-infused cocktails and culinary dishes at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, where Executive Chef Daven Wardnyski personally cares for the hives. The busy bees in the resort's eight hives produce about 1,200 pounds of honey per harvest.

Honey Cocktail

Honey from the beehives atop The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is collected to make cocktails like this Rooftop Honey Brandy Sour. Other honeyed beverages include a sherry cocktail made with fresh orange and a hand-blended syrup of fresh pineapple and rooftop wildflower honey. The drink is garnished with a sprig of fresh sweet basil, also from the rooftop garden. Honey is also used in the Spa and Wellness Center's signature Honey Detox and Chocolate Truffle body treatment.

Rooftop Beehives

More than 10,000 sedum plants thrive on top of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. When they burst into bloom, bees zip out of the nearby hives to feast on pollen and nectar. The bees also visit the chefs' rooftop gardens, which gives a touch of lavender or mint flavor to their honey.

Fresh Honeycomb

Fresh honeycombs are harvested by beekeepers at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte and rushed to the hotel kitchen, where the chefs use them to make beverages and delicious dishes. Some 60 to 80 pounds of natural, chemical-free honey are harvested from the rooftop hives annually.

A Place to Rest Their Wings

Hard-working pollinator bees can find nesting materials atop the Chateau Laurier Fairmont in Ottawa. Once they've selected the perfect twigs and other natural items, they can rest, reproduce and make lots of honey, which the hotel chain uses in onsite bars, restaurants and spas. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts began by installing 6 rooftop bee sanctuaries; plans call for another 10 to be established in public areas.

Dallas Rooftop Bees

The Fairmont Dallas planted its rooftop garden in 2008. During the peak season, the hotel's two hives hold up to 80,000 honeybees. Between 60 and 80 pounds of honey are harvested each year by the restaurant's chef, with help from the Texas Honeybee Guild.

Bees Over Washington, D.C.

The Fairmont Washington, D.C. welcomed 105,000 Italian honeybees to its three rooftop hives several years ago, and they're still happily buzzing. Each year, the hives, called Casa Bella, Casa Blanca and Casa Bianca, yield about 100 pounds of honey. This pollinator bee hotel, complete with nesting materials, was added in 2015 to give industrious solitary bees a place to rest their weary wings.

Helping Bees in Seattle

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle added five hives to its rooftop in 2011. Hotels around the world are planting herb, flower and vegetable gardens in an on-going effort to help the bees, whose numbers have plummeted. Researchers think the bees' decline stems from a combination of factors, including parasites, disease, climate change and the use of certain pesticides and insecticides. How can backyard gardeners help? Plant a garden for pollinators, watch or limit your use of garden chemicals, build bee houses and preserve natural bee habitats. Learn more here.