Honeybees make Mich. Ave hotel sweeter

July 13, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Ten beehives on the 9th floor rooftop of Marriott are busy with bees making honey for the hotel's guests.

"We've got about a half million bees and they fly all around downtown pollinating flowers. The mayor graciously plants them all up and down Michigan Avenue every couple of weeks. So they're out there doing their duty they bring that pollen back here and they make honey for us," said Myk Banas, executive chef, Marriott Magnificent Mile.

But bees aren't all sweetness and honey, they also sting to protect their way of life. Going nose-to-nose with bees' stingers can be a painful assignment so Chef Banas provided protective suits. Even though the Italian, five stripe honey bees are docile, you're looking for trouble when you enter their hives. After all, we are after their honey -- and this year they are making plenty.

"Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six hundred pounds," said Banas. "By this time next year we'll wish we had more beehives and more honey."

They use the honey in many different recipes-- like salad dressings and baked goods. They also make a popular honey wheat beer that's sweet with no sting. Plus, the bees pollinate the Marriott's herb and vegetable rooftop garden.

Two years ago Chef Banas decided to get the bees. He thinks it's the right choice.

"At this hotel we pride ourselves in serving local foods and it really doesn't get much more local than your own rooftop," said Banas.

Next time you're downtown and the bees are buzzing, don't worry. They're just making life a little sweeter.

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