By JILL ALEXANDER
Something has been buzzing down at the San Diego Marriot Marquis Marina for quite some time and it looks like it isn’t going to subside.
In 2015, the Marriott Marquis Marina’s engineering team began a simple beekeeping program on one level of the venue and the idea took off.
These days at any given time, 150,000 to 350,000 “Marquis Bees” from several hives produce honeycomb used in the hotel’s restaurant, local breweries, and distilleries.
Helping the Planet
When their honey is not being added to a recipe or a honey-centric beer or cocktail, the Marquis Bees are doing their part to help the planet.
“Honeybees, bumble bees, and all pollinators are responsible for the development of many plant species that we see today as a result of centuries of cross-pollination. The honeybee alone pollinates up to 80% of wild flora across the globe – being massively responsible for the spread of flower blossoms making them a sort of artist,” Wilson said.
In the end, the cost of keeping the bees is not that high, and relatively speaking, it is insignificant in comparison to the benefits derived from ensuring that these invaluable pollinators thrive, even in urban spaces.
“The economic opportunities that exist from having docile honeybees massively outweigh the cost,” Wilson said.
It’s amazing to note that docile honeybee colonies, such as the Marquis Bees, will produce minimally, 2.5 gallons of honey annually without encroaching on the bees’ wintertime honey stores.
However, good weather, strong bee populations, and nearby blossoms will help encourage greater honey yields.
Also, each hive grows and shrinks through the seasons and around 50,000 bees per hive are at the height of their seasonal population.
As for the type of honey being produced at the Marriott Marquis Marina, it is considered a wildflower blend as the bees will gather nectar from places like Balboa Park, Coronado, and the many downtown manicured gardens.
The sustainable program now in its seventh year continues to be a popular one and there are plans to extend it, Wilson said.
“We are currently developing an amenity program with Hotel Executive Management that will utilize the honey in various ways making it available for all the guests to consume.”
Since 2015, the honey has been primarily used to drive alcohol sales in the Marina Kitchen with the following collaborations:
Honeycomb Harvest (Honey Cram Ale) – Monkey Paw Brewing – 2015
Beehive Black Lager (Shwarzbier) – Stone Brewing – Nov 2016
To Bee or not to Bee (Honey Lemon Golden Ale) – Pizza Port Brewing – March 2018
Rooftop IPA (Honey Citrus IPA) – Mother Earth Brewing
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 consistently growing in popularity across the planet as they are still the strongest and most silent contributors to the global food supply directly responsible for up to 35% of human-consumed produce.
“Indirectly, honeybees are used to pollinate plants such as alfalfa, carrots, onions, etc., to create seeds. Alfalfa is an incredibly commonly used food for cattle and therefore, the bees feed not only us, but also the cattle that we eat as well.
“As the Global Food Supply has been threatened with post-COVID supply chain breakdowns, the awareness around the need for bees and the localization of food production is growing dramatically,” Wilson said.
Beyond the need for bees, he added that they are some of the planet’s most gentle animals (when managed properly) that directly interact with humans.
Not to mention the number of bee facts is buzzworthy:
Bees are the only insect that creates food for humans without them being the food.
Honey does not expire.
Honeybees can recognize a human face, can count, and understand odd and even numbering.
Recipes and More
While the honey is collected year round it’s only harvested mid-summer, so the bees have enough honey during fall and winter when there is less pollen and nectar.
As mentioned, the honey is used in a variety of meals by Executive Chef Rafael (Rafa) Corniel, Wilson said.
“Honey is a great substitute when you want to add little sweetness to some dishes, we like incorporating 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 yet currently sold at the Marriott Marquis Marina, there have been discussions with the executive team as to how it can make this happen for the property to open additional revenue streams and give the guests some of the sweet rooftop abundances, Wilson said.
The beehives are taken care of regularly and are maintained by Travis from Bee Leaf USA, a full-service beekeeping company that specializes in the “Rescue, Relocation, & Revival of Honeybee Colonies.”
Wilson added the company also rescues hives (in danger of extermination) from unwanted locations, 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 was formerly a Marriott team member before pursuing a career in agriculture, Wilson said.
Presently the Marquis Bees cannot be viewed up close by guests but that might change at some point.
“The hives can be seen from the southeast side of the south tower rooms when looking down onto the parking garage roof,” said Travis Wilson, San Diego Marriot Marquis Marina senior marketing manager.
Additionally, the hives can be seen from the meeting rooms on the third floor by the executive offices facing east.
“This provides a unique opportunity to make a ‘walk-up’ space for guests to learn about the bees with window decals, mock equipment, or signage to maximize the program from a marketing perspective,” he said.