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San Francisco hotel uses rooftop for honeybees, herbs, & produce

San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel opened one year to the day after the 1906 earthquake and since then it’s hosted a bit of the city’s history. In 1945 delegates met here to draft the U.N. charter, every U.S. president since Harry Truman has stayed here, and in 1961 Tony Bennett first sang “I left my heart in San Francisco” in the hotel’s Venetian Room.

The hotel’s newest guests also reflect the city’s legacy: this time, the fight against Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In June of 2010, the hotel installed 20,000 honeybees on its roof. Executive Chef JW Foster explained they will use the hyper-local honey in their kitchens, but that is not the point. “We’re helping them and we’re helping ourselves because without it we’re going to be in trouble, there’s no question.”

A third of our diet comes from insect-pollinated plants. Bees pollinate 80% of those plants, including apples, citrus fruit, melons, and nuts. So honeybees are pollinating a quarter of our diet: it’s pretty obvious why we should be worried about their fate.

In this video, Foster shows us the bees, their new home with views of the San Francisco skyline, and talks about using the 250 pounds of honey they hope to harvest in ice creams, chutneys, curing products, on scones at afternoon tea, and even possibly in a honey beer.