Culture & Entertainment

A peek inside the Fairmont ‘bee hotel’ (and how to make your own!)

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

A peek inside the Fairmont ‘bee hotel’ (and how to make your own!)

[caption id="attachment_22449" align="aligncenter" width="600"] One of the One of the 'bee hotels' on the Fairmont Royal York's rooftop. (Photo via Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.)[/caption] Look up, waaaaaay up, and you might just see the latest residents of Toronto’s prestigious Fairmont Royal York hotel. Buzzing atop the hotel’s iconic green roof are four rustic structures referred to as 'bee hotels.' The shape of the structures is inspired by Toronto’s skyline, while the interior (made much like a series of cubbyholes) contains bundles of sticks and logs. The newly constructed bee hotels are part of a joint initiative between Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Burt’s Bees and Sustainable.TO Architecture + Building and Pollinator Partnership Canada. The rooftop of a major metropolitan hotel seems like a bizarre place for bees to retreat to, but its pre-existing rooftop garden made it a natural fit, says Victoria MacPhail, a biologist with Wildlife Preservation Canada. “Bees are always out scouting for sites to nest, and the flowers on the roof are drawing them in,” she says. “They’re attracted to the flowers and then they find these nests nearby. Colony Collapse Disorder The jumble of sticks and logs that make up the structures might not look like much to us, but to an urban bumblebee, finding these hotels is like hitting jackpot. They’re a safe haven–a home–in a concrete landscape that is otherwise inhospitable to the species that is rapidly disappearing from our Canadian landscape. [caption id="attachment_22461" align="aligncenter" width="448"] A close-up look at one of the bee hotel suites. (Photo via Gilean Watts.) A close-up look at one of the bee hotel suites. (Photo via Gilean Watts.)[/caption] City pollution, pesticide use, climate change and destruction of their natural habitats are some of the factors contributing to what biologists have dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that has led to an annual decline in Canadian honeybee populations of more than 30 percent since 2007, according to Burt's Bees. Food-lovers should care For food-lovers like Fairmont Royal York executive chef Collin Thornton, providing a welcome environment for bees to nest and pollinate isn’t just altruistic–his (and our) livelihood depends on them. Bees pollinate the plants that grow the fruits and vegetables we love to cook with and eat, as well as the foliage that animals eat to produce quality cheeses and other dairy and meat products. Not to mention sweet, sticky honey, which is a favourite among chefs and home cooks alike for adding floral sweetness to baked goods. “It’s natural for chefs to be involved in taking care of bees,” he says. “We use the honey and the herbs and plants that the bees pollinate. An initiative like this will make the public more aware of bees and the bee decline.” [caption id="attachment_22453" align="aligncenter" width="512"] Make your own bee hotel from plywood, shingles and a bundle of sticks and twigs. Make your own bee hotel from plywood, shingles and a bundle of sticks and twigs. (Photo via Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.)[/caption] Build your own 'bee hotel' MacPhail says that initiatives such as the bee hotels are an important step in bringing back the bees, and that people should consider constructing their own version right in their backyards (just be sure to keep them three to six metres away from where you or your family will be gardening or playing). “You don’t have to do something as fancy as this, even just bundling twigs together in a milk carton or coffee can works,” she says. “Put it in a back corner of your garden and leave it be. Soon you’ll see the bees come into it.” Other simple 'hotels' can be made by drilling holes into logs for the bees to nest in, then stacking the logs in a small wooden structure to keep them safe. As an added bonus, the bees that are attracted to your mini hotel will then pollinate the plants nearby, giving your vegetable or flower garden a boost. Talk about a win-win! Speaking of win-wins, do the bees and yourself a favour by whipping up one of our five delicious desserts, which feature honey as the star ingredient. For the recipes, click here.
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A peek inside the Fairmont ‘bee hotel’ (and how to make your own!)

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