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At the Fairmont, bees stay for free

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“Ya don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone”, goes the Joni Mitchell song. Bees, those fuzzy flying creatures, pollinate most of our fruits and vegetables. They are not gone, but their numbers have been declining.

Fairmont Hotels has joined Burt’s Bees in an effort to attract and host the tiny but invaluable guests to the Fairmont Royal YorkToronto’s rooftop “Wild For Bees” is a program offering sustainable nesting spaces for solitary, pollinator bees, which make up over 95% of the bee population and work independently to spread pollen and nectar from plant to plant and flower to flower. Other types of bees, like honeybees and bumblebees, typically work and nest in groups, but solitary bees work and nest individually, without a queen or a hive.By 2015, Burt’s Bees and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts aim to fund the design and development of 100 bee hotels across Canada.

At the Toronto Fairmont rooftop, these Bee Hotels look like wooden sculptures, built haphazardly, with holes for the bees to rest their weary wings. They were designed by SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture and Building, and assisted by Pollinator Partnership Canada.

For several years, the Fairmont’s rooftop has been known for its garden of billowy lettuce and other vegetables, and a multitude of herbs, picked fresh for dining. The Hotel also had honey beehives in over 20 of its luxury properties across the globe. The Toronto Fairmont Royal York is the first to construct a Bee Hotel, offering bees a place to rest, and bringing home the point that bees pollinate more than 80% of our fruits and vegetables.

Wild for Bees was started three years ago by the skin care company, Burt’s Bees, in order to raise awareness and money. According to Burt’s Bees Canada spokesperson, Carolyn Hungate, bees provide the honey and beeswax needed to make 95% of Burt’s Bees products. In June, which is designated as Pollinator Month, the company has launched a new, limited edition Hydratiing Lip Balm with Coconut and Pear. And the Fairmont Royal York haslcreated custom pollinator menus at its restaurants, and will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Pollinator Partnership Canada.

According to the Pollinator Partnership, we need not be afraid of bees. Less than half of the world’s bees are capable of stinging, and only female bees sting. It’s completely safe to watch bees as they fly from flower to flower. The stinging bees are usually ground nesting yellow jackets, which are only minor pollinators. Do not swat at bees or yellow jackets, as this could aggravate them.

Another collaborative effort, which aims to track and conserve North America's bumble bees, is called Bumble Bee Watch. It asks participants to register and upload photos of bumble bees. Experts will identify the bumble bees, and help locate endangered populations. Supported by Wildlife Preservation Canada and other organizations, Bumble Bee Watch wants to create a group of citizen scientists. When it comes to saving these essential creatures, the more buzz the better.

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