How Urban Bees Sweeten Travel

(Photo: Rod Hatfield)

(Photo: Rod Hatfield)

Want a sweet souvenir from your travels? Urban apiaries are the latest buzz in major cities around the globe, and you can discover them tucked away in popular tourist spots. In an effort to combat colony collapse disorder (a phenomenon in which bee populations decline dramatically), many businesses have joined local conservation efforts to give bees a home by adding hives to their rooftops and gardens. While that's good news for the bees (and the environment), travelers get to benefit, too, as there's plenty of surplus honey to go around.

Bees have earned their wings at airports as well as hotels, department stores, opera houses, and other surprising places. And because it's cool to drone on about the industrious creatures (especially on National Honey Bee Day), here are 10 of our favorite places to find them.

O'Hare International Airport, Chicago

Air-traffic control, take note: There's more than just airplanes flying in and out of Chicago O'Hare. Not only is the airport one of the nation's busiest in terms of passenger traffic, it also owns the country's largest on-airport apiary, with more than 1 million bees buzzing around 75 hives.

Experience It: The resulting honey is made into products by Sweet Beginnings and sold in airport stores. It's also used at airport restaurants like Tortas Frontera. Important reminder: Honey is considered a liquid, so only pack up to 3.4 ounces of it in your carry-on bag, or opt to check it.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle

Beekeeping has also taken off at Sea-Tac. In June 2013, 500,000 honeybees touched down near the airfield through a partnership with local nonprofit The Common Acre, which strives to bring earth and art together.

Experience It: Flight Path, an art and educational exhibit, opened this June in the pre-security area outside of Concourse B (or is it Concourse "Bee"?). The inspirational installation includes work based on the themes of flight and bees by 24 Northwest artists.

Opera Garnier, Paris

Something sweet is happening in Paris, a city that's quickly becoming the queen of urban beekeeping. On the rooftop of the lavish Opéra Garnier, for example, scores of bees sing their buzz-worthy arias; though like most divas, they command a hefty fee. At €120 per kilo, the honey they produce is some of the most expensive in the world.

Experience It: Beekeeper Jean Paucton (who also runs a bee school in the Luxembourg Garden) sells Opéra Garnier honey through gourmet grocer Fauchon and the Opera's boutique when in season.

Four Seasons Centre For The Performing Arts, Toronto

Apiculturists seem to love the arts as much as the bees. In Toronto, beekeeper Fred Davis has orchestrated the installation of seven hives on the rooftop of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The bees have been busily producing honey since the spring of 2010 and clearly deserve a standing ovation.

Experience It: Depending on the harvest, honey is available for sale at the Centre when the Canadian Opera Company is in performance.

Waldorf Astoria, New York

Although the Big Apple's former ban on beekeeping stung for more than a decade, apiarists are now free to pollinate within city limits, even in the heart of Manhattan. At the legendary Waldorf Astoria, for instance, more than 300,000 bees embark on a daily commute to Central Park and New York's tree-lined streets for nectar, and then head home to their penthouse suite, 20 stories up.

Experience It: In October, the Waldorf will release a honey beer made through a partnership with Empire Brewing. In the meantime, Chef David Garcelon uses the honey in the hotel's restaurants for dishes like wild strawberries with yogurt sauce and mushroom chowder. And for dessert? Rooftop honey-raspberry creme brulee or honey-nougat ice cream. Enough said.

Fortnum & Mason, London

Atop the posh Fortnum & Mason department store at 181 Piccadilly, four colonies of well-mannered Welsh Black bees live in true London style. Their palatial, six-foot-tall hives have been painted in the store's signature eau de nil pale-green color and are capped with gilded "bee skep" finials.

Experience It: The exclusive Fortnum's Bees Honey is harvested once a year and is available via a wait list. However, beemaster Steven Benbow also takes care of hives at the Tate Modern, which sells jars of honey (when in season) for a few pounds each.

Seaport Boston Hotel, Boston

Perhaps Boston could use a little honey for its tea party. A new type of colonist—one that means busy-bee business—has organized atop the Seaport Boston Hotel. Recently, with the support of chief beekeeper Edwin Medrano, the hotel harvested more than 100 pounds of honey made by an estimated 1 million freedom-loving bees. How's that for pollination with representation?

Experience It: At the hotel's TAMO Bistro & Bar, vinaigrettes and menu items like spicy bourbon-glazed chicken wings incorporate Seaport Honey, which is also available for sale in the Seaport Cafe.

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris

Is that a gargoyle or a honeybee up there? Ask hunchback Quasimodo, who has been competing for real estate among the Gothic spires of Notre-Dame Cathedral since the spring of 2013. With help from beekeeper Nicolas Géant, swarms of bees have moved to the roof of the sacristy and are praying to stay.

Experience It: You might not be able to taste the Cathedral's honey or tour the hives, but walk through Square Jean XXIII or the gardens around Île de la Cité and you just might encounter some of the bees at work. Géant also tends to the hives across the street at La Tour d'Argent restaurant, which sells its own honey and uses it to sweeten desserts.

Jumeirah Frankfurt, Frankfurt

On the 28th floor of the Jumeirah Frankfurt, the notion of a bird's-eye view is completely passé—that is, if you're a bee. Since the hotel opened in August 2011, 40,000 honeybees have been enjoying Frankfurt's spectacular skyline in between forays to the banks of the Main River and Palmengarten botanical garden below.

Experience It: At the daily breakfast buffet, hotel guests can let the amber liquid drizzle directly from a slab of honeycomb onto their toast. The honey is also available as part of the hotel spa's Skyline Honey Treatment, and it can be purchased in souvenir jars.

Fairmont Hotels, Worldwide

With properties from North America to China, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has had a bee (or several million bees) in its bonnet for more than 20 years. Apiaries are standard amenities at many of the chain's luxurious properties, which often pair the honey-making pollinators with on-site culinary gardens as part of a company-wide sustainability initiative.

Experience It: Get a buzz from honey-laced cocktails at the hotels' bars or sweeten your palate with select dishes from creative restaurant menus. At the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, Canada, you can get a close-up glimpse of the hives, provided by apiarist John Gibeau, in the Centennial Garden.

Read the original story: How Urban Bees Sweeten Travel by Anne Banas, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel. The story is also featured on Boston.com and TalkTalk.co.uk.