Bees create buzz at posh NYC hotels

Hive-keeping part of latest go-green effort

NEW YORK — An iconic hotel in the heart of midtown Manhattan is buzzing with thousands of tiny new visitors. But watch out: They’ll sting if you get too close.

Honeybees have taken up residence at the Waldorf-Astoria New York, one of New York City’s most famous institutions and a favorite stopover for many U.S. presidents. The hotel plans to harvest its own honey and help pollinate plants in the skyscraper-heavy heart of the city, joining a beekeeping boomlet that has taken over hotel rooftops from Paris to Times Square.

“Today about half the population of each hive, the foragers, are flying mostly in the direction of Central Park,” explained Andrew Cote, the Waldorf’s beekeeper-in-residence, on a recent sunny afternoon as he inspected each hive. “They’re plucking up pollen, nectar, water. They’re bringing it back to their hives, to their homes.”

Beekeeping is a natural fit for hotels trying to keep up with industrywide pressure to “go green,” whether it’s retrofitting their buildings to make them energy efficient or simply adopting environmentally conscious practices. Enter urban beekeeping, a buzz-worthy pastime nowadays in light of the mysterious disappearance of honeybees in recent years, which led some state agriculture departments to encourage hobby beekeeping.

About one-third of the nation’s diet benefits from honeybee pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In New York City, the bees will help pollinate new trees that have taken root as part of the city’s plan to plant 1 million trees during the next decade.

“In terms of sustainability, it’s not only giving back to the environment,” said Andrew Gajary, general manager of the Intercontinental New York Times Square, which recently installed its first beehive, following in the footsteps of its counterpart in Boston, where a veritable colony of bees has been expanding for the past year. “I’m no longer having to go out and get packaged honey from hundreds of miles away.”

Bee fever has even infected hotels beyond American shores. In Paris, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel ensconced its first hive this year and plans to hand out little honey pots as gifts for guests.

At the Waldorf, the insects are visible from certain rooms, and guests can sign up for tours of the hives - although they may want to put on a bee suit first.

“I don’t know how many times I was stung today, but I probably deserved each and every one and more,” Mr. Cote joked as he carefully lifted a bee-encrusted honeycomb out of a hive.

Mr. Cote is something of a celebrity in the beekeeping world, having waged a successful campaign against the city’s ban on keeping bees, which was lifted in 2010. He sells jars of honey at green-conscious markets throughout the city, tends hundreds of hives from Connecticut to Manhattan and founded the nonprofit Bees Without Borders and the New York City Beekeepers Association.

The Waldorf’s first batch of honey is expected be ready for collecting by early summer.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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