Last updated: 02:57 PM ET, Sat August 22 2015

Radisson Has A New Hotel...For Bees

Hotel & Resort | Radisson Hotels & Resorts | Josh Lew | August 22, 2015

Radisson Has A New Hotel...For Bees

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Hotel additions and renovations are quite common. More rooms are added to meet demand, or maybe the current facilities are updated so that the hotel can keep up with newer competitors. The Radisson Blu at the Mall of America in Minnesota is a relatively new hotel, but it recently built an addition.

The Blu is not trying to meet rising demand. With 500 rooms, the hotels is already quite large. Instead, the new addition will accommodate some unusual guests: honeybees.

This particular Blu has always had an environmentally friendly streak. Earlier this year, it became the first LEED-certified hotel in the Greater Minneapolis Saint Paul metro area. Now, the hotel, which is located directly adjacent to the Mall of America in suburban Bloomington, is working with a group called the Bee Squad from the University of Minnesota to operate two bee colonies right on its roof. 

Why bees?

Pollination is important for the survival and growth of a number of plant and tree species, including many that are a vital part of the agriculture industry. Bees are the world's most active pollinators. Pesticides and an infestation of microscopic mites have harmed the bee population in many parts of America, including in the North. The University of Minnesota's bee colony efforts are aimed at bringing the population back up to sustainable levels.

Why a hotel?

A hotel and a bee colony: that doesn't really seem like a logical pair. Most venues wouldn't want to risk having a population of bees close to their guests.

The hives at the Blu have been installed on a roof area, far from any entrance to the hotel. Initially, the hives were supposed to be installed in a third-floor garden area with a large window so that people could see the bees from inside the hotel. However, the bees needed more sunlight, and the surrounding buildings cast too much of a shadow. The hotel is 13 stories high, so the roof was the obvious choice both for sunlight and to appease any bee-phobic guests.

Why the Mall of America?

The Mall’s location is ideal for bees. A nearby nature preserve is the perfect place for them to forage during the summer. There are also several highways in the vicinity. You wouldn’t think that would be ideal, but it is. Minnesota does not spray weed killers or any other pesticides along its roads, so the bees can collect pollen safely. Highways are actually a very healthy environment for these pollinators. 

The radiant heat from the hotel and the neighboring mall should be enough to keep the bees alive during the coming Minnesota winter. The hope is that, next year, the remaining bees will be divided into groups and the original two colonies will be turned into four. Ideally, those colonies will continue to grow until they too are large enough to be split. The University of Minnesota is looking for additional sites to expand its program. Eventually, the Radisson's bees could be moved to other locations around the metro area.

A sweeter stay for Blu guests

The MoA Blu is trumpeting its greenness, but there is another aspect to the beekeeping project: honey. The hotel’s FireLake Grill is overseen by Chef Paul Lynch. Though the colony has just gotten off the ground, Lynch has already said that he has plans to use the honey that will eventually be produced by the bees. He hopes to include the sweet product in salad dressings, artisan cocktails, desserts and main dishes. There has even been talk about producing gourmet hard candies made from the honey.

The Blu has 500 rooms in all. Not only is it the hotel of choice for people visiting the Mall of America, it is also only a few minutes from Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport, and it is connected to Downtown Minneapolis by a light rail line. 

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