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A giant hive of bees has taken over the roof an historic downtown hotel! And they’re making great beer.

Not many people would suspect that there’s a rooftop garden at the top of the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto. Fewer still would suspect there’s also a thriving apiary up there, with 350,000 bees producing an average of 450 lbs of fresh honey every summer. (In 2011, the bees went into overdrive, producing a record-breaking 800 lbs of honey!)
The 14th floor garden has been on the roof since 1996 and the bees first arrived in 2002, an initiative established in partnership with the Toronto Beekeepers Cooperative and FoodShare. Originally, it began with two hives, but that’s since grown to six. It’s the first of what has grown to be several Fairmont hives internationally, and is regarded as the first rooftop apiary to be found at any hotel in the world.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is active when it comes to looking for ways to protect the environment, as is evidenced by its eco-focused Green Partnership Program. With growing concerns about Colony Collapse Disorder in North American honeybees, Fairmont says it saw an opportunity to help by placing hives on some hotels’ rooftop gardens. Not only will it help the local environment by providing plenty of bees to pollinate area gardens and parks, but by harvesting the honey, chefs can offer delicious, local and sustainable honey for use in onsite bars and restaurants.
The program has been so successful that it has now extended beyond North America, with onsite hives thriving in Kenya and China.
Curtis Roberts, marketing and social media manager at the Royal York, says the hotel offers rooftop tours in the spring and summer (weather permitting) that include a look at the active apiaries. Tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm and 4pm, and are generally limited to about 25 people.
“The idea for the tour really came from guests asking about the garden and bee hives,” says Roberts. “It’s something interesting and novel we like to show off, and we’re proud of it.”