Meet Bea's bees, over half a million honeybees spread across three of our hotels.
It could be said that bees are singlehandedly responsible for our breakfast staples: they are not only crucial to the world’s agriculture but are also the artisans behind the unctuous spreadable we know and love as honey. Yet, this sophisticated insect’s livelihood hangs in the balance, and human malpractice is to blame. Since the 1990s, honey gatherers have noticed a steady and rapid decline in the number of honeybees. Last winter, almost 40 per cent of managed colonies in the US alone were lost. And while populations remain more stable in the UK, our bees are by no means immune to poor hive management, chemical pesticides and climate change.
That’s why, at Red Carnation Hotels, we’ve established resident apiaries, or honeybee hotels, at three of our properties, responsibly managed and conscientiously harvested. Guests staying at The Chesterfield Mayfair, The Montague on the Gardens and The Oyster Box can tour these hives and sample the intricate flavours of their honey. With even more hives on the way at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant, the partnership between Red Carnation Hotels and the honeybee is only just getting started.
The first in the Red Carnation Hotels suite of honeybee hotels were the apiaries atop The Chesterfield Mayfair. Constituting four hives, The Chesterfield’s bees number in the hundreds of thousands. Their unique, London brand of honey is perfumed with blooms from Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park and Clarence House. Given the extensive bouquets of these royal gardens, The Chesterfield’s bees have access to an extraordinarily complex palette, from hydrangea and hyacinth, lilac to lavender.
Once a year, the bees’ honey is humanely and sustainably harvested, yielding an average of 160 pounds. The resulting honey is as rich as it is deep in flavour, and guests staying at The Chesterfield enjoy it every morning at Butlers Restaurant.
The astounding success of The Chesterfield’s honeybee hotels did not go unnoticed. It wasn’t long before Bloomsbury’s The Montague on the Gardens looked into setting up its own resident hives. Complications soon arose: there wasn’t enough space on The Montague’s roof to accommodate the beehives. However, through a partnership with neighbouring The Bedford Estates, two co-owned hives were set up in the gardens behind the hotel. A total of 20,000 bees were chauffeured from Woburn Abbey, the ancestral home of the Duke of Bedford, and their new patch was landscaped with all manner of majestic florals.
This year, the first, over-80-pound batch of honey was harvested and has since won 2nd prize in the Woburn Abbey Honey Festival. The honey is served at breakfast in The Blue Door Bistro and can be purchased in personalised jars or sampled in The Leopard Bar’s signature honey cocktails. Next year, proceeds from The Montague’s harvest will be donated to a sustainable bee project.