The newly installed ‘bee hotel’ at the Claremont Hotel. Photo, taken on July 15, 2016, by Emilie Raguso
The newly installed ‘bee hotel’ at the Claremont Hotel. Photo, taken on July 15, 2016, by Emilie Raguso

It’s not just humans who can check in to the Claremont Hotel these days. Wild bees are welcome too, now that Fairmont Hotels & Resorts have installed a ‘bee hotel’ on the grounds of the iconic hotel which straddles the Oakland-Berkeley border.

The bee hotel was designed in partnership with Pollinator Partnership as a spot for nesting and reproduction, rather than producing honey, like in a beehive. It comprises stacks of logs on several shelves built into a wooden structure with a roof. Holes drilled in the logs create natural bee homes. The bee hotel is located below the carriage entrance to the hotel on the road leading from the Domingo Avenue entrance.

“Bees pollinate 80% of the food we eat and wild bees are three to four times more effective at pollinating plants compared to other bees,”said Fairmont spokeswoman Kaitlynn Furse when asked why Fairmont decided to install the bee hotel. “When the opportunity to install a bee hotel arose, the hotel was in the process of curating a pollinator garden in the back of their Kids’ Club. They saw this as an opportunity to drive the garden’s development and increase public awareness on the importance of developing and maintaining pollinator habitats.”

The bee hotel at the Claremont Hotel was designed by staffer Aurora Darrow. Photo, taken on July 15, 2016, by Emilie Raguso

Habitat loss is a leading cause for the decline in the population of wild bees. The bee hotel is one of ten that Fairmont has installed across its properties. Each one is custom-designed for its location. Thus, there’s a wine barrel bee hotel at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa; a miniature version of the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston; and one that features the Washington Monument at the Fairmont in DC.

The design of the Claremont Hotel is meant to somewhat resemble the Claremont’s imposing tower, said Furse. “They started with a simple design, but there are plans to continue developing the installment as they move forward with the ongoing renovations of the grounds.”

The bee habitat was designed by the hotel’s “resident visionary, artist and architect,” youth programming supervisor Aurora Darrow, Furse said. It was built and installed by the hotel’s lead engineer and carpenter, Tom Bailey.

Pollinator Partnership is the largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems

“Often we hear people complain that they are afraid when they see a bee in the garden, but the reality is that not seeing a bee in a garden is a much scarier proposition,” said Laurie Adams, executive director of Pollinator Partnership in a prepared statement. “Bee visits are critical to most flowering plants, and vital to healthy ecosystems and agriculture. It is up to every one of us to do our share, right now, while the opportunity for the reversal of decline is still within our grasp.”

The Fairmont group also has a separate honeybee program created in 2008 to help combat Colony Collapse Disorder. It has placed honeybee hives on hotel rooftop gardens and other onsite locations across its portfolio of properties. It also sometimes highlights the connection between food and pollinators with special menu items at some of its restaurants. There are no beehives at the Claremont as yet, but Furse said the long-term plan is to install some.

A bee lands on a rose in the gardens of the Claremont Hotel. Photo: Emilie Raguso
A bee lands on a rose in the gardens of the Claremont Hotel. Photo: Emilie Raguso

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...