Culture & Entertainment

The Bee Hotel at Fairmont Royal York

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

The Bee Hotel at Fairmont Royal York

Honeybees at Fairmont Hotel Guest post by Leah Morrison As a former employee of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, I have seen all kinds of guests: backpackers, families, businesspeople, even royalty. While on a recent visit to Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York, however, I was introduced to the most unusual guest yet: honeybees. Bees have taken up residence on the roof of The Royal York, in their own “bee hotel.” The initiative, a partnership between Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Burt’s Bees, Sustainable.TO Architecture + Building and Pollinator Partnership Canada, is working to help preserve Canada’s bee population. Up on the roof, I examine the bee hotel, charmingly in the shape of the Toronto skyline. A collection of natural nesting materials (think logs, twigs and soil) provide living quarters for solitary bees in the area who need a place to rest, lay eggs, and protect themselves. Each small nest has its own cubby within the structure. Holes have been drilled into wooden logs to create “rooms” for the bees. I’m impressed. So why do we need hotels for bees? Unfortunately, the Canadian bee population is in rapid decline. Since 2013, beekeepers have been losing high percentages of their colonies. Loss of habitat is a major factor in the bee population decline. Bees contribute an estimated $1 billion in pollination services to the Canadian agriculture industry.  Without bees (who are responsible for the reproduction of 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants), many plants and animals would die. “Raising money and awareness for pollinator research and breeding programs is important,” says Vicki Wojcik, research director of Pollinator Partnership. “It will aid in limiting future losses and boosting bee health in the present.” Fairmont Royal York isn’t new to beekeeping. The hotel has housed honeybee hives on its roof since 2008, producing more than 800 pounds of award-winning honey each year. Much of the honey goes right to the kitchens for use in the hotel restaurants, along with the produce from the hotel’s rooftop garden. Fairmont’s extensive extensive sustainability program includes economic, environmental and social programming, making the bee hotel initiative a natural choice for the hotel. Incidentally, more than 20 Fairmont properties around the world grow their own food. For Burt’s Bees, natural Canadian honey and beeswax are essential. “Bees are the crux of our business,” says Carolyn Hungate, a representative of the company. Three years ago, with the launch of its Wild for Bees campaign, Burt’s Bees worked to improve the health of the bee population. This year, the company’s current partnership with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts involves opening five bee hotels in Ontario. By 2015, Burt’s Bees hopes to develop 100 bee hotels across Canada. This partnership is the most unique environment program I’ve seen, and after living in Banff National Park for more than three years, I’ve seen quite a few (kitchen grease recycled into biodiesel!). Fairmont, Burt’s Bees and their partners have high hopes of saving the fuzzy little insects. So, urban gardeners, go ahead and invite bees into your backyards and witness their contribution to a beautifully well-stocked garden. Need tips for attracting bees to your garden? Visit davidsuzuki.org. And how about a honey-inspired dinner? Try Canadian Living's Mustard Honey Pork Chop recipe! Photo courtesy of FlickrCC/wildxplorer
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The Bee Hotel at Fairmont Royal York

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