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The association of 540 hotels and restaurants believes that the protection of biodiversity is a major priority. They say bees are the environment's sentries, but they are now at risk of extinction mainly due to the widespread use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides and insecticides in large agricultural areas. They believe it is critical that the habitats bees thrive in are restored, saying, “Bees are indicators of the health of our ecosystems and the only pollinators for a large number of plants. One-third of our food supply would disappear without them.”
Relais & Châteaux properties are supporting efforts to help this cause in the hospitality world. With a new generation of beekeepers, many properties are producing honey all over the world including Japan, New Zealand, Chile, England, Spain, France and the United States.
Many hotels now include one or more beehives on their roof or in their kitchen garden, and this is particularly important in cities where green spaces are limited and there are fewer homes for bees.
Relais & Châteaux have listed a number of properties who are supporting the strengthening of bee populations.
Chewton Glen, Hampshire, United Kingdom
This property first delved into beekeeping with a small handful of hives, but the venture quickly grew and as of this summer the apiary will have 70 beehives. With help from a professional beekeeper, the team has its heart set on expanding the activity mainly by planting the bees' favourite flowers and plants like borage, phacelia and lavender. Protecting bees is part of a widespread environmental effort that is also working to increase the populations of birds and hedgehogs as well as grow other plant varieties to offer guests unique custom-made jellies and syrups.
Hostellerie La Cheneaudière, Colroy-la-Roche, France
This property sells a line of natural beauty products called Simples et Miel that can only be found here. All the products are made with pure water from the Colroy-la-Roche springs, honey from the property's beehives, berries from the Vosges forest and plants from the surrounding prairies. Guests can enjoy the honey at breakfast.
Saint James Paris, France
Saint James Paris installed beehives with help from Timothée Quellard of Ekodev in a garden off the restaurant patio. Customers can watch the honey being harvested. They learn about the importance of saving bees, vital to protecting biodiversity, and then taste a house honey, which Pastry Chef Matthias Alet also uses in his creations.
Relais Bernard Loiseau, Saulieu, France
Since July 2014, 200,000 black bees of Burgundy have been living on the rooftops of Relais Bernard Loiseau in small hives designed especially for them. Thomas Décombard of Apidis comes from a long line of beekeepers and tends to the property's hives.
La Grande Maison Bernard Magrez, Bordeaux, France
In 2009, Bernard Magrez began reintroducing bees at vineyards throughout the Bordeaux region as part of a contemporary art project begun by Pierre Grange Praderas. The project aimed to bring back domestic bees to wine growing areas, increase pollination and share the fruits of their labour with the honey produced.
Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, Sardón de Duero, Spain
Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine teamed up with Honey Montes de Valvení to offer guests a chance to play beekeeper on a one-of-a-kind tour. Guests can visit the apiary dressed in special beekeeping gear and get up close to the hives.
Relais San Maurizio, Santo Stefano Belbo, Italy
Located in Piedmont, Relais San Maurizio has made a name for itself in the beekeeping trade, which has been practiced by Cistercian monks here since the 17th century. The property makes its own brand of honey called Abbey Honey on land halfway between the Alps and the Mediterranean atop a hill swept by sea breezes and surrounded by grapevines.
Llangoed Hall, Wales, United Kingdom
Llangoed Hall is strongly committed to protecting plants, animals and resources. They installed beehives in the gardens that supply locavore chef Nick Brodie with exceptional products all year round.
Longueville Manor, Jersey, United Kingdom
Longueville Manor embarked on an ambitious environmental conservation programme called New Leaf. Some of the property's actions include maintaining 24 hives that produce honey for the restaurant and an active support effort for the Durrell Wildlife Preservation Trust, which works to protect species close to extinction. Bee colonies are helping local farms by improving pollination rates and they supply an abundance of fragrant honey for hotel guests.
Château St. Gerlach, Valkenburg aan de Geul, The Netherlands
Château St. Gerlach has five beehives and a display hive where visitors can watch Carniolan bees hard at work. Last year, they produced 150 kg of honey that was served at breakfast, used in desserts, given as gifts and sold. St. Gerlach's chef Otto Nijenhuis is a certified beekeeper and member of the Dutch Beekeepers Association.
Hotel Bareiss im Schwarzwald, Black Forest, Germany
The owners of this hotel in the Black Forest renovated an old farmhouse that with a plan to hold events and tastings there for guests. The kitchen garden is a beautiful refuge for three bee colonies. The honey they produce is on the breakfast menu and also used in a royal jelly treatment at the spa.
Beau-Rivage Hotel, Switzerland
On the hotel's rooftop is a series of beehives that are home to 60,000 pollinators. Guests are invited to visit them guided by beekeeper Audric De Campeau, founder of the eco-responsible company CitizenBees. Dozens of built-in sensors were installed inside and outside the hives so you can see how the Hymenoptera live in real time.
Winvian, Morris, Connecticut, United States Chef Chris Eddy at Winvian Farm in Morris bought some hives from local apiary Red Bee Honey to supplement his farm-to-table menu and live up to his commitments on sustainable development. The hotel's Instagram page shows how this microcosm is buzzing with activity across 45 hectares of organic gardens.
Huka Lodge, Waikato, New Zealand Two years ago, when chef Paul Froggatt came from Asia to New Zealand's Huka Lodge to be its executive chef, he began crisscrossing the region to find fresh inspiration for his cuisine. He became friends with a local beekeeper and convinced him to move some of his hives to Huka Lodge on the banks of the Waikato River in Taupo.
Tobira Onsen Myojinkan, Nagano, Japan
In the heart of the "Japanese Alps" lies this hotel built in 1931 inside a national park in the peaceful mountains between snowcapped peaks and hot springs reputed for their healing properties. Amid this lush landscape beehives have been installed, whose honey is harvested once per year.