The last thing you’d expect to see at a hotel resort in Honolulu’s Waikiki neighborhood is a swarm of 80,000 bees.
But that’s exactly what happens at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa twice a day as honeybees fly to and from their “room” at the hotel. OK, it’s actually an apiary, and it’s part of Hyatt’s initiative to challenge its chefs to focus on sourcing locally for ingredients in unique, environmentally conscious ways. In Waikiki, that challenge falls on Executive Chef Sven Ullrich.
“It’s something I always wanted but was always afraid to do,” Ullrich told The Huffington Post. After all, the Hyatt hive is on the same level as the pool deck and around the corner from a busy open-air bar. “You always think about wasps. But honeybees — look at them,” he pointed to the hive outside, about a foot away outside a large window. “They’re just working. That’s what they do.”
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Worldwide, beekeepers are still alarmed at the sustained rate in which bees continue to die. Colony collapse disorder has decimated honeybee populations, with some beekeepers saying they’ve lost up to 90 percent of their bees recently, some 10 million beehives in six years.
Honeybees are the most important pollinators of fruits and vegetables; it’s estimated that a third of everything we eat is a product of bee pollination. They fly out every day, sometimes miles away, to flowers and plants. Ullrich says the Waikiki bees fly as far as three miles from the hotel to Kahala, a neighborhood on the other side of Diamond Head crater.
When a bee finds a flower, it holds onto it and vibrates to release pollen, which then gathers all over the bee’s fuzzy body. In the afternoon, the bee returns to the hive, full of nectar and pollen — you can see it in action at the hotel, a freeway of bees streaming in a linear flight path directly to the hive, where the goods are converted into honey. It’s really something to see, and since its installation in November last year, not a single hotel guest has been stung.
Real honey — the all-natural stuff, not the gold-colored mass-produced liquid sold in supermarkets — is delicious, but it’s really a lucky byproduct of the bee’s doing their thing. And Ullrich’s “Hula Meli” (Hawaiian for “dancing honey,” because honeybees dance to signal where nectar is located) is light and floral, perfect for the herbal cocktails, dishes, and spa treatments the hotel will offer that include it as an ingredient.
Ullrich said the lifespan of a worker bee is about six to eight weeks, during which a bee will produce only a quarter of a teaspoon of honey. He anticipates Hyatt’s hives to produce about 10 gallons of honey every year for the hotel’s restaurants, banquets, spas and, if there should be any extra, to sell at nearby farmers markets.