Toronto Fairmont Royal York home to new 'bee hotel'
Essential pollinators can find a rooftop oasis amid the urban jungle
There's no doorman, but Toronto's iconic Fairmont Royal York Hotel is hoping a new structure will attract thousands of wild bees to its rooftop.
The "bee hotel" as the Fairmont is calling it, is a light green, freestanding wooden structure that looks like a large bookcase. On its shelves are bunches of sticks, soil and other materials that wild, pollinator bees — which normally live alone — can seek shelter in.
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The bee hotel complements the hotel's already buzzing honeybee apiary, which has been in operation since 2008 and includes six hives. The hotel said the hives produce around 360 kilograms of honey each year, most of which gets used in the hotel's restaurant.
The wild bees that will live in the structure don't produce honey, but are still crucial for plant life across the city because they're better pollinators than their honeybee cousins. Unfortunately, experts across Canada are warning the pollinators are in decline.
“They're dying,” said Alexandra Blum, one of the project's founders, who works for the cosmetic company Burt's Bees.
“And one of the reasons they're dying is because in urban environments, they become very confused with urban pollution and smog and they need places to nest.”
Blum and her sister came up with the initial idea for the rooftop bee hotel. Their concept was then developed with the hotel, Sustainable.TO Architecture + Building and the bee experts at Pollinator Partnership Canada, who helped complete the design.
Four more bee hotels are set to be installed across Toronto soon, and one will be built in Guelph, Ont., as well. The Fairmont said it may also extend the program to its other hotels.
Victoria MacPhail, a biologist with Wildlife Preservation Canada, was also a part of the project. She said that the Fairmont Royal York Hotel works in large part because of the hotel’s green-coloured copper roof and an existing garden the bees can pollinate.
“Bees frequently visit green roofs, there have been studies done on that, and actually a friend told me she had a report of a bee at the top of the Empire State Building,” said MacPhail.
“So build it and they will come.”