Luxury and Bees: A Humble, Buzzing Connection

One insect that requires a much-needed revival is the bee. With conservationists hopeful for a friendlier world for bees, various luxury brands have come forward to become the keepers of these busy organisms, creating a growing collection of bee-friendly landmarks around the world

By: Tejashee Kashyap

Posted on: May 25, 2020

Luxury and Honeybees

In a town just south of Houston, 500,000 to 600,000 bees were swiped out of the environment in 2019. The bee population is rapidly declining around the world due to habitat loss, pollution and the use of pesticides, among other factors. They are not just beneficial for that honey-flavoured cocktail you’re sipping or the sweet pastry you can’t stop Instagramming about. On the recently observed World Bee Day, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall - who has been named the first-ever President of Bees for Development - highlights the importance of bees and how they help alleviate poverty and encourage biodiversity. 

While people have been confined to their homes in lockdown, wildlife has faced less human disturbance, traffic and polluting fumes. Lockdowns have put a number of insect-harming practices on hold, creating a safer world for bees as well. Adding to that, luxury hotels - from Waldorf Astoria New York to Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver - have been creating a buzz for being bee-friendly landmarks. Synonymous with luxurious and exclusive motoring, even Rolls-Royce is doing their bit through their sweet new venture of saving bees. But, what makes the culture of apiary and urban beekeeping a favourite among luxury?

Moving Up in the World

World Bee Day, celebrated on May 20, aims to strengthen measures to protect bees, which are vital pollinators for almost 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species and more than 75% of global food crops. Despite their importance in supporting food security and biodiversity, bees are under significant threat worldwide from intensive and monocultural farming practices, land-use change and habitat loss, pesticides and rising temperatures linked to climate change.

Rolls-Royce Apiary

Richard Carter, Director of Global Communications at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said, “We are helping to raise awareness of the real, present threats facing this fascinating and incredibly important species. We all depend on bees and other pollinators to produce much of our food and safeguard and enhance the biodiversity of the world around us.” Although car manufacturing has been temporarily suspended, the home of Rolls Royce also made the buzz for the world’s most exclusive honey. The Apiary project is Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ response to the real and present threat facing Britain’s honey bee population. 

There are over 20,000 different species of bee, found on every continent except Antarctica and without them, the delicate balance of the Earth's ecosystem would be destroyed and a third of global food supplies would disappear. Showcasing its solidarity, even vegan material science label Pangaia collaborated with Japanese artist Murakami and launched a 'Bee the Change' fund, featuring clothing with flowers and a unique bee character created specifically for the project. The fund aims to protect and preserve vulnerable and endangered bee species across the world.

Pangaia and Takashi World Bee Day shirts

Buzzing Hotels

Many luxury hotels have been utilising their unused rooftops to produce locally grown honey. They have also used it to let people learn and be aware of the insects’ role in ecology. World-class architects known for their design language make hives interesting and creative too. For example, in Baur au Lac, Zurich, the hive was designed as a miniature version of the hotel itself. Britain has been facing major bee challenges, hence St Ermin’s Hotel, steps from the Buckingham Palace, has been raising awareness by hosting a thriving colony of 300,000 Buckfast honeybees inside their “Bee & Bee” hotel. Visitors can sign up for a 2.5-hour Urban Beekeeping workshop too that outlines the complexities of a bee society, offers guidance, and teaches how to site hives in gardens or allotments. 

St Ermin's Hotel London

Shangri-La, Toronto features a  “B-Wall” which includes a $35,000 luxury condominium beehive setup designed by Birks, a Canadian high-end jeweler. The hive design is elevated, allowing the bees to take flight faster and in the opposite direction of people. The staff can harvest kilograms of honey to use in their cocktails and pastries. Many hotels can be seen doing a wondrous job in saving the world population of bees from the dramatic decline. Instead of allowing those largely unused rooftop spaces go to complete waste, they are now rooms for saving earth’s ecology.

Shangri-La Toronto

The Takeaway, Honey!

The United Nations has designated May 20 as World Bee Day to mark the birthday of Slovenian artist, designer and apiculturist Anton Janša (1734-1773). Considered as the father of modern beekeeping, Janša pioneered many methods still in use today. In his seminal treatise, A Full Guide to Beekeeping, published posthumously, he declared: “Amongst all God's beings there are none so hardworking and useful to the man with so little attention needed for its keep as the bee.” 

Baur au Lac Zurich honey

Human survival depends on bees. They contribute to the pollination of one-third of the world’s global food supply. So as well as giving wild bees themselves a temporary respite, bee specialists are hopeful that increased awareness and engagement with bees could be a boon for conservation.

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