Sacred Honey Bee Evening video clip, CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW

Sacred Honey Bee Evening video clip, CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW
Click on this photo for a video of "Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bee". Photo by Daniel Bahmani

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Companies Get Sweet on Bees


Beekeeper Spencer Marshall of Marshall's Farm harvests honey from the Fairmont rooftop hives in San Francisco. The hotel's bar serves pints of ale infused with honey from the apiary. The buzz at Intel Corp.'s Folsom campus isn't about its latest computer chip. Intel installed five beehives, home to about 200,000 bees, at its offices in June. Now the Santa Clara-based company has a beekeeping club with several certified beekeepers, offers classes for employees and serves honey made from its bees in the employee cafeteria, says an Intel spokesman. The chip maker is among a growing set of businesses in and around the Bay Area that are adding beehives in their backyards and on their rooftops—part of efforts to cultivate honey, but also to help with pollination and promote a greener image. "It's really starting to become an integrated way of life in San Francisco and the Bay Area," says Robert Mackimmie, founder of City Bees, a beehive management and advocacy group in San Francisco. Mr. Mackimmie helped install eight hives on the roof of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco last year, and the grocery store sells the honey it produces in eight-ounce jars for $11.99. "It's a bit more than you'd pay at a bigger chain, but imagine that that's honey that's made literally 10 feet above your head," he says. The Bay Area is particularly friendly to bees because the temperature rarely dips below freezing, and so native plants provide consistent food and activity for the pollinating critters, say beekeepers such as Mr. Mackimmie. Google Inc. GOOG +1.65% has four hives at its Mountain View headquarters, and the bees have helped the company grow a multitude of flowers and other flora. The company serves the fruits of the bees' labor in its well-stocked cafeteria and teaches beekeeping classes for brave engineers and programmers, says a Google spokeswoman. Bill Tomaszewski, general counsel for San Francisco-based online wine purveyor Wine.com Inc. and co-owner of Marin Bee Co., provided beehive supplies for Google and Intel, as well as the San Francisco Chronicle for its rooftop apiary. The former police officer says he is eking out a modest profit from his beekeeping services, which include selling three-pound packages of bees at $105 each and honey-based skin-care products. "A lot of these companies are trying to get a little green and bees are a good way to do it," Mr. Tomaszewski says, cautioning that beekeeping isn't for everyone. "This is hard work, you've got to make sure these bees are happy." He convinced the landlord of Wine.com's building at 114 Sansome St. in San Francisco to install hives on the 14th-floor roof two years ago. The building manager, Seagate Properties Inc. in San Rafael, distributes honey to its tenants a few times a year, says Seagate partner John Conely. While there are no known statistics on how many buildings and businesses have their own beehives, it is apparent the trend is growing, says Philip Gerrie, president of the San Francisco Beekeepers Association. He says many businesses were spurred to help fortify the bee population by previous reports of a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which worker bees fail to return to their hives, leaving the colony to fend for itself. San Francisco also has a permissive attitude to beekeeping, says Mr. Gerrie. "Generally, as long as the neighbors don't complain, it's OK," he says. The city of San Francisco's real-estate department is looking to put two beehives on its 8th-floor rooftop at 1 South Van Ness Ave. by the spring of next year, says District General Manager Lesley Giovannelli. She says the hives would be looked after and donated by nonprofit San Francisco Bee-Cause, so there would be minimal cost to taxpayers. "We may sell jars of the honey at the Alemany Farmers' Market," Ms. Giovannelli adds. Blue Bottle Coffee Co. maintains 10 hives on the roof of its Oakland headquarters. "Our customers don't even know they're up there," says coffee-bar manager Sarah Guldenbrein. "We're looking to develop a pastry with the honey, but it's mostly to help create a positive footprint in the neighborhood." Other food purveyors are getting in on the act. Mediterranean-influ
enced restaurant Nopa, in the San Francisco neighborhood of the same name, has served a honey-balsamic vinaigrette, almond butter and scones using honey cultivated from hives on its roof, says Stephen Satterfield, a manager. And visitors to the Fairmont's bar on Nob Hill can sample poured pints of Almanac Beer Co.'s ale infused with honey from the hotel's rooftop apiary. The hotel plans to start selling four-packs of honey beer for $20 this month, says spokeswoman Melissa Farrar. Beside the rare bee sting—experts say the bugs only attack when provoked—there is at least one other peril in keeping colonies in densely populated areas, says Mr. Mackimmie of City Bees. "Tens of thousands of bees in one place can leave a lot of bee poop behind on cars," he says, noting it looks like tiny yellowish dots. "It washes off, but it's a nuisance." Write to Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com