You may think penthouse suites are the highest accommodation to be found in a hotel, but some are creating residences on the rooftop – although not for human guests. As bee populations decline, hoteliers around the world have been installing apiaries, in most cases on the roof. Since bees are crucial to biodiversity and pollinate a lot of the fruit and vegetables we eat, there’s good reason to ensure their welfare. While helping the ecosystem, a delicious secondary benefit is the honey harvested from the hotels’ hives, which is found on restaurant and cocktail menus as well as in spa treatments and as gifts. The Fairmont group led the way, introducing apiaries at its Canadian hotel in 2008. At one of these, the Waterfront in Vancouver, a “bee butler” conducts daily tours of the hives. The chain now has hives at 21 properties around the world, and last year began trialling cameras at five of these, including Yangcheng Lake Resort in Kunshan, Suzhou, Jiangsu province, to monitor the bees’ activity. Hotel apiaries are not just based in bucolic locations, though. “It’s hard to find land in cities to put beehives, so hotel rooftops allow us to put them where there would otherwise be no bees to perform pollination,” says Doug Purdie, co-founder of The Urban Beehive, in Sydney, Australia, where he tends to several hotel apiaries. Not all cities prove suitable. An apiary was installed on the roof of Hong Kong’s InterContinental hotel (currently closed for refurbishment) but because of the heat, heavy rain and distance to local parks – even with plants added to the rooftop – it wasn’t sustainable. Success has been more forthcoming in San Francisco, where eight hotels, including the W and The Clift Royal Sonesta, have followed Fairmont’s lead in installing beehives. London is also home to a number of hotels with apiaries, including Ham Yard and The Ritz. The colonies have the British capital’s many royal parks as well as Buckingham Palace gardens to feast on. Dale Gibson, of Bermondsey Street Bees, designed, installed and maintains the four beehives at Hilton London Bankside. He says the bees benefit from two large green roofs factored into the hotel’s design at the planning stage, as well as investment by Hilton in local planting. “This is a great example of joined up thinking in urban sustainability,” Gibson says. Here are four more hotels with thriving hives: Shangri-La, Sydney The bees live in eight hives on a private terrace with the exotic trees and flowers of the Botanical Gardens within reach. Shangri-La was the first hotel in Sydney to partner with The Urban Beehive. Raw honeycomb from the apiary is served at breakfast and the hotel’s honey, made without heat treatment, is used on the Altitude Restaurant menu and is available to buy from its boutique. Mandarin Oriental, Paris Eco responsibility is a priority at the hotel, which has a courtyard with more than 100 trees and shrubs, and a rooftop vegetable garden. A beehive was installed on the roof when the hotel opened in 2011 and a second one was added two years later. The honey is used in the Mandarin’s restaurants and on cocktail menus. Guests who help the hotel’s environmental programme, for instance by choosing to have their towels replaced less frequently, are given a jar of honey harvested from the MO hives. St Ermin’s, London The rooftop is home to a bee and kitchen garden, thanks to the hotel’s property director, Colin Farquharson, who advocates sustainability and instigated installing an apiary. The hotel now has 10 beehives housing 350,000 bees. The garden also has a Bee and Bee Hotel, which provides refuge to thousands of solitary bees. Hotel guests are invited to visit the bee garden – behind the safety of glass – and see where the honey is produced for the nectar-based food, cocktails and mocktails served at the hotel. Radisson Blu Mall of America, Minnesota As the hotel is a member of the Bee Network, the University of Minnesota Bee Squad maintains the hives on the roof. Although based next to one of the largest shopping malls in the world, the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, as well as the vast Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, are in reach of the 80,000 bees. The primary purpose of the apiary is for research, to help conserve bees, but the honey produced is used in dishes on the hotel’s FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar menu, as well as in spa products. The rooftop is off limits to guests, but the Bee Squad sometimes bring bees to the lobby for demonstrations, to highlight the importance of pollinators.