On the rooftop of the Swissotel in Sydney, Australia, a group of workers tirelessly work even while city offices were emptied due to the pandemic.
Beekeeper Andrew Wilson, dressed in his protection equipment, checks the wellbeing of the resident bees and is careful not to disturb the insects that live in the hotel’s rooftop hives. He admits he gets stung at times, but says the bees are very gentle so when it happens, it is always his fault for being in too much of a hurry.
Since the Covid-19 lockdowns, interest in urban beekeeping has been on the upswing. This is also due to the fact people are becoming more environmentally aware.
Swissotel recently opened a new restaurant, Ten Stories, and as part of their sustainability theme, they harvest the pure, unfiltered honey and honeycomb from the rooftop beehives to use in restaurant recipes.
Although the executive chef, John Giovanni Pugliano, does not handle the bees, he is learning the art of beekeeping from Mr. Wilson. He is neither scared nor allergic, but he is fascinated by bees.
This unrelated 8:09-minute video by Barnyard Bees gives insights into rooftop beekeeping.
The bees forage in the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens so their honey at times has undertones of plum, passionfruit, and berries. The flavor depends on the season and location of the bees.
Mr. Wilson knows where each of his hives came from and is very attached to his bees. He is a member of Sydney Bee Rescue, which saves high-risk bee colonies. He gets anxious if he thinks his bees are ill or struggling for some reason.
The hotel has 4 producing hives, so is truly a city farmer. Each hive produces around 20 kilos of honey. It is hard to produce food in usable quantities in the city, but the hotel is doing just that.
Bees are pressured by climate change and habitat loss that is a direct result of urbanization, according to Mr Wilson.
Floral losses and a reduction in fauna, including pollinators from these areas, and increasing climate disruptions wreak havoc on all pollinators, particularly the bees.
Mr. Wilson indicated that in winter, due to early spring weather, the bees built up their populations but then starved because there was a lack of food.
Bushfires and floods are destroying habitats. The recent wet summer caused many hive losses due to starvation since the bees couldn’t leave the hive for long periods of time.
The rooftop bees at Swissotel in downtown Sydney travel to pollinate the flowers in the area within a five-kilometer radius of their hive. When the hives are strongest in spring and summer, this can re-introduce 80,000 pollinators into an area.
This is a fine example of bees, humans, and industries partnering for the greater good of honeybees and humans.