Royal York rooftop garden a hive for bees
The Fairmont Royal York hotel is opening nbsp; the Honey Moon Suite – a cute name for one of three new beehives in the hotel s rooftop garden.
The Fairmont Royal York hotel is abuzz with excitement.
It has to do with the opening of the new Honey Moon Suite. But don’t go looking for Italian linens or extra-deep bathtubs. This suite is a very small box with holes in its walls, and it’s also prone to regular visits by insects.
Bees, that is. The Honey Moon Suite – a cute name for one of three new beehives in the hotel’s rooftop garden – is now home to more than 10,000 buzzing bugs.
The hives were installed this week and will provide honey for the hotel’s restaurants starting this summer.
I’d noticed how many insects fly into this garden in the middle of concrete and steel, says executive chef David Garcelon. We saw honeybees up here and I thought: I wonder if we could have our own?
Garcelon, a local food advocate, reached out to the Toronto Beekeepers Cooperative last year and members, who’ve been keeping hives in downtown locations since about 2002, swarmed on the opportunity.
We’re all about helping the bee population thrive in the city, says co-op spokesperson Cathy Kozma, noting that wild honeybees have been disappearing across North America and Europe in recent years. Scientists don’t know why but viruses, pesticides, genetically modified crops and poor beekeeping practices may all be factors.
The resulting worldwide shortage of honey means it’s now a hot gourmet ingredient. But Garcelon won’t have to worry about rising honey prices when he stirs up a batch of his famous Wild Mushroom Chowder, which contains the golden liquid. He’ll simply draw on his kitchen’s private cache of Royal York honey.
While the top of a building in the heart of downtown might not seem like heaven to a honeybee, the beekeepers expect the Royal York’s colonies to thrive. The three hives could yield as much as 320 kilograms – that’s about 1,400 small jars – of honey by the end of this year’s autumn harvest.
Bees will fly up to 6 kilometres to forage, says Kozma, noting that the club’s own bees, newly ensconced in 19 hives located near the Don Valley, seem to love the urban life.
The Royal York bees will forage all along the waterfront, on the Leslie St. Spit and in the Don Valley, she says.
Co-op beekeepers will make regular visits to the hotel to care for the bees, which could reach a peak population of about 150,000 by midsummer. They’ll train Garcelon’s kitchen staff in basic beekeeping.
It’s a great opportunity for the apprentices here to learn, notes Garcelon. We’ll work with the co-op at harvest time. They have an extractor so we’ll bring the hives into the kitchen to extract the honey, he says, noting that his staff will don beekeeping helmets and veils, and epinephrine injectors will be close at hand.
The staff will eventually develop a relationship with the bees, says Kozma, who joined the co-op in 2004 because she’d noticed the bee population dropping in her downtown garden, and wanted to get involved in the urban agriculture movement.
You get to know them, she enthuses. You know from the sound they’re making, from how they’re wagging their bums, how they’re flapping their wings. You can tell how they feel. They’re still a wild creature, but you develop a fondness.