By JILL ALEXANDER
Something has been buzzing in the San Diego Marriot Marquis Marina for quite some time now and it doesn’t look like it will abate.
In 2015, the Marriott Marquis Marina engineering team began a simple beekeeping program on one level of the site and the idea got off to a flying start.
Today, at any given time, 150,000 to 350,000 “marquis bees” from various beehives produce honeycomb used in the hotel’s restaurant, local breweries and distilleries.
Helping the planet
When their honey is not added to a recipe or a honey-focused beer or cocktail, the Marquis bees are doing their part to help the planet.
“Honeybees, bumblebees and all pollinators are responsible for the development of many plant species we see today as a result of centuries of cross-pollination. The honeybee alone pollinates up to 80% of the world’s wild flora — because it’s hugely responsible for the propagation of flower blossoms, making them something of an artist,” Wilson said.
Ultimately, the costs of keeping the bees are not that high, and relatively insignificant compared to the benefits it brings from ensuring these invaluable pollinators thrive, even in urban spaces.
“The economic opportunities of having docile honeybees far outweigh the costs,” Wilson said.
It’s amazing to note that docile honey bee colonies, such as the marquis bees, will produce a minimum of 2.5 gallons of honey annually without encroaching on the bees’ winter honey supply.
However, good weather, strong bee populations and nearby blossoms will contribute to a greater honey yield.
In addition, each hive grows and shrinks through the seasons and approximately 50,000 bees per hive are at the peak of their seasonal population.
As for the type of honey produced at the Marriott Marquis Marina, it is considered a wildflower mixture, as the bees collect nectar from places such as Balboa Park, Coronado, and the many manicured gardens downtown.
The sustainable program, now in its seventh year, continues to be popular, and there are plans to expand it, Wilson said.
“We are currently developing a amenities program with Hotel Executive Management that will utilize the honey in a variety of ways so that it is available to all guests to consume.”
Since 2015, the honey has been mainly used to boost alcohol sales in the Marina Kitchen with the following collaborations:
Honeycomb Harvest (Honey Cram Ale) – Monkey Paw Brewing – 2015
Beehive Black Lager (Shwarz beer) – Stone Brewing – November 2016
To Bee or not to Bee (Honey Lemon Golden Ale) – Pizza Port Brewing – March 2018
Rooftop IPA (Honey Citrus IPA) – Brewing with Mother Earth
Honey, I Drank the Kids (San Diego Extra Pale Ale) – Thorn Brewing Co.
Honey Barrel Rum – Malahat Distilling
It’s no secret that honeybees are gaining popularity around the world as they continue to be the strongest and quietest contributors to the global food supply directly responsible for up to 35% of the products consumed by humans.
“Indirectly, honey bees are used to pollinate plants such as alfalfa, carrots, onions, etc. to create seeds. Alfalfa is an incredibly common food for livestock, which is why the bees feed not only us, but also the livestock we eat.
“As the global food supply is threatened with post-COVID disruptions in the supply chain, awareness around the need for bees and the localization of food production is growing dramatically,” Wilson said.
Aside from the need for bees, he added that they are some of the most gentle animals in the world (if properly managed) that interact directly with humans.
Not to mention some bee facts that are buzzworthy:
Bees are the only insect that creates food for humans without them being the food.
Honey does not expire.
Honey bees can recognize a human face, count and understand odd and even numbering.
Recipes and more
Although the honey is collected all year round, it is not harvested until the middle of summer, so the bees have enough honey in the fall and winter when there is less pollen and nectar.
As mentioned, the honey is used in a variety of meals by chef Rafael (Rafa) Corniel, Wilson said.
“Honey is a great substitute if you want to add a little sweetness to some dishes. We like to use sweet and spicy when using our honey, for example we do Aleppo honey carrots for our roasted chicken dish, as well as a fresh honeycomb to pair with our local cheese and charcuterie plates,’ Corniel said.
While the honey is not currently sold at the Marriott Marquis Marina, talks have been ongoing with the executive team on how this could be done for the property to open up additional revenue streams and give guests some of the sweet bounty on the rooftop, Wilson said.
The hives are regularly cared for and maintained by Travis of Bee Leaf USA, a full-service beekeeping company specializing in the “Rescue, Relocation, & Revival of Honeybee Colonies”.
Wilson added that the company also rescues hives (at risk of extinction) from unwanted sites, takes them to the Rural Honeybee Sanctuary in SD County and rehabilitates the hives until they are stable and become candidates for a beekeeping program like the Marquis bees.
Travis, the property’s beekeeper, used to be a Marriott team member before pursuing a career in agriculture, Wilson said.
Currently, guests can’t get a closer look at the marquis bees, but that may change at some point.
“The hives can be seen from the southeast side of the rooms in the South Tower if you look down on the roof of the parking garage,” said Travis Wilson, senior marketing manager of San Diego Marriot Marquis Marina.
In addition, the beehives can be seen from the meeting rooms on the third floor through the boardrooms on the east.
“This provides a unique opportunity to create a ‘walk-up’ space for guests to learn about the bees with window decals, counterfeit equipment or signage to maximize the program from a marketing perspective,” he said.