Spring is a busy time for the most productive pollinators on Earth — bees. Re-emerging from their hives after a long winter, the bees get to work, moving from plant to plant fertilizing fruits, vegetables, and seeds. Without these important insects, the balance of Earth’s intricate ecosystem would be at risk, as would our global food supplies that are produced thanks to their pollinating efforts.
Unfortunately, wild bees are endangered in Europe and declining in the U.S., which means it’s crucial that we support the bees as much as possible. Luckily, supporting bee populations can be as easy as planting bee-friendly flowers, foregoing harmful pesticide sprays, and creating pollinator-friendly spaces, such as a “bee pond” or a “bee hotel.”
Helping the bees can also be achieved by supporting businesses and organizations that are trying to save the insects in a multitude of ways — through beekeeping, selling honey, or growing pollinator-friendly plants. If you’d like to do your part, check out these 10 bee-friendly places to visit around the world.
Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver (Vancouver, Canada)
As a member of a bee-friendly hotel chain, Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver is more than welcoming to buzzing pollinators. In collaboration with Pollinator Partnership and the Pollinator Coordinator Project, the Vancouver hotel has created ample space for bee nesting and reproduction.
Located on the hotel’s 2,400-square-foot rooftop garden, the “Bee and Bee Pollinator Hotel” is an apiary with five beehives and over 250,000 honey bees that produce 200 pounds of honey per season. The third-floor terrace is home to the Bee Garden, the hotel’s herb and blossom garden that serves as special habitat for super pollinators native to British Columbia.
The honey from the hotel’s bees is used in chocolate dishes, pastries, salad dressings, and even cocktails. It’s also used in the Fairmont Stinger Honey Lager, a local brew from Whistler Brewing Company, served in the hotel bar. Between May and September, tours are available of the hotel’s bee-friendly gardens — an opportunity that allows people to better understand the mechanics of a bee colony.
Texas Honey Bee Farm (Austin, Texas)
Just west of Austin, the Texas Honey Bee Farm is home to an apiary, beekeeping shop, and a beekeeping school, all of which use traditional methods for their beekeeping. Open to all “bee-curious” visitors, the farm offers on-the-spot tours available for $10 per person. The tour includes stopping by the Bee Observation Deck to watch the bees from the confines of a screened-in porch and often includes a walk through the grounds to visit some of the busiest hives. The farm’s private tours are available for larger groups and include an in-depth explanation of how hives function and the best beekeeping practices.
To learn even more about the subject, the farm offers a multitude of educational opportunities, including Beekeeping 101 and 201, both of which offer thorough, in-person instruction on how to start and maintain a beehive. In addition to honey and bee-friendly merchandise, the farm’s shop sells beekeeping supplies to help newbies start their hives.
Opéra Bastille and Palais Garnier (Paris, France)
Not one, but two, opera houses in Paris are bee-friendly. The terraces of the Opéra Bastille house 50,000 bees that have been maintained by urban beekeepers called Mugo since 2016. This feat was inspired by another Parisian opera house, Palais Garnier, which has housed bees for decades.
The Palais Garnier’s hives were started by beekeeping enthusiast and opera prop man, Jean Paucton. After studying beekeeping, Paucton ordered his first hive, which was delivered to him at his place of work. Paucton used the opera house’s rooftop as a temporary home for the bees, but after seeing the success of the hives, Palais Garnier became their permanent home.
These urban hives have proved highly successful, producing over 1,000 pounds of honey a year. The sweet goodies produced from these rooftop bees are sold in the opera houses’ gift shops and gourmet food stores around the city.
Avena Botanicals (Rockport, Maine)
Situated on three acres along Maine’s midcoast, Avena Botanicals is a certified biodynamic farm that provides a safe haven for bees. Located in the seaside town of Rockport, the farm’s team of gardeners, herbalists, and beekeepers work collaboratively to grow organic herbs and flowers that are transformed into healing teas, oils, salves, elixirs, and creams sold throughout the U.S.
By its very nature, Avena’s garden is a bee-friendly place, as well as home to other important pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. In fact, owner Deb Soule has paid very special attention to bees throughout the course of her long career as a gardener and herbalist. Soule has noted that certain herbs, including bee balm, anise hyssop, black cohosh, borage, catmint, and European meadowsweet, are especially beloved by bees — providing pollen, nectar, and shelter for pollinators.
In the summer when the garden is blooming, Soule hosts garden walks, teaching visitors about the different medicinal plants and the importance of pollinators. The garden also hosts year-long classes and events for anyone who wishes to learn more about the art of herbalism and how to use medicinal plants.
Tsavo National Park (Sagalla, Kenya)
One of the oldest national parks in Kenya is also one of the friendliest to the bees. Tsavo National Park contains 5,000 square miles of reserved land for lions, cheetahs, giraffes, and hippos. However, it’s thanks to the park’s elephants that Tsavo is a bee-friendly destination.
In collaboration with the Elephant and Bees Project, Tsavo National Park uses beehive fences to deter elephants from leaving the park. Since elephants are afraid of bees, these live fences stop them from trampling farmland and raiding crops, thereby reducing human-elephant conflict. In this manner, the project is saving both the bees and the elephants, in addition to creating a new form of income for local farmers, who sell “Elephant-Friendly Honey” to the public.
The beehive fencing has been an integral part of the park since 2009 and has been crucial in the success of local farmers. The park has a total of 306 beehives that protect 22 farms, using Langstroth beehives in partnership with Honey Care Africa, which sells honey produced by African beekeepers.
Urban Farmer (Denver, Colorado)
When Denver restaurant Urban Farmer opened in 2017, executive chef Chris Starkus was already obsessed with bees. With rooftop hives at the property and personal hives on his farm in Lakewood, the beekeeper/chef was undergoing a three-year educational endeavor to earn his Master Beekeeping Certification.
The result was a beautiful relationship between the bees and the restaurant’s farm-to-table menu, with honey and pollen from the rooftop hives used in cocktails, savory and sweet dishes, and as an accompaniment to cheese.
Since leaving the restaurant in 2019, Starkus has passed on the care of the bees to Executive Sous Chef Ryan Rau. Rau has expressed hopes to further expand the restaurant’s beekeeping enterprise, with plans to build a pollinator-friendly garden next to the hives as the future site of rooftop dinners. In the past, the restaurant has also celebrated National Pollinator Week with bee-inspired meals and honey-flavored dishes.
Baerwaldstraße Urban Meadow (Berlin, Germany)
The city of Berlin is making a concerted effort to become a more bee-friendly place. In 2021, the city earmarked 1.5 million euros for the construction and upkeep of 50 wildflower meadows within city limits, with hopes of supporting local bee populations, in addition to beautifying the city and paving the way for increased biodiversity.
One such meadow is located on a narrow strip of land along Baerwaldstraße, a one-way street near the city center. Under half an acre, the urban meadow features an arresting display of pollinator-friendly wildflowers, including red poppies, blue cornflowers, wild grass, nettles, and cow parsley. During warmer months, the small meadow buzzes with carpenter bees and other pollinators, making it a happy place to visit for humans and insects alike.
The initiative took hold after national reports revealed a 75% decline in insect populations, with over half of the nation’s bees in danger of becoming extinct. As a result, several German cities, such as Munich, Leipzig, and Hamburg have prioritized urban meadows in their budgets, with residents becoming increasingly appreciative of the bee-friendly parks.
Ciudad Dulce (Curridabat, Costa Rica)
In Curridabat, Costa Rica, bees — and other important pollinators such as bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies — are recognized as crucial benefactors to the ecosystem, and are treated accordingly. As a result, the mayor of the San José suburb has designated pollinators as Curridabat citizens — a move that has earned the suburb the nickname “Ciudad Dulce,” which means “Sweet City” in Spanish.
This unique citizenship also includes trees and native plants that play a crucial role in the well-being of the city’s residents. As a result, urban planners are encouraged to create spaces that allow for every citizen to thrive — not just humans. To further protect the pollinator population, bee hotels have been built throughout town as a way to ensure that the insect citizens have comfortable homes.
With reforestation efforts of native species set in place, the mayor hopes to turn every street into a biocorridor, where plants and pollinators are able to thrive in the urban environment. The symbiotic relationship extends to humans, who benefit from increased air quality from the plants (which are in turn, pollinated by the bees).
Tahi (Whangārei, New Zealand)
Rooted in a family honey business that dates back to 1888, Tahi is a bee farm, nature sanctuary, and sustainable eco-retreat. Located in Northland, New Zealand, on 74 acres of restored wetland, Tahi has turned into a thriving ecosystem that is home to native fish, lizards, birds, and, of course, bees.
At Tahi, the family honey business is still thriving, using natural practices that don’t call for the addition of sugar water, corn syrup, antibiotics, or chemicals. The farm also doesn’t collect bee venom, which can prove fatal to bees, nor do they use pollen traps, so as not to damage the bees’ wings. This results in happy and healthy hives that produce delicious Manuka honey, a specialty product made from bees who have pollinated tea trees.
The property also provides educational visits to groups and individuals who wish to learn more about conservation, in addition to self-guided walking tours of the sanctuary’s many paths. Thirty-minute tours of the beehives are also available, as are tours of the honey house, where guests can learn how the honey is extracted and bottled for consumption.
Bee Hotel (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Fed up with its country’s rapidly declining bee population — 50% of the Netherland’s 360 species of bees are endangered — the city of Utrecht decided to do something about it. In an effort to save the bees, the city built a giant insect hotel that allows wild bees to safely nest, with 200 individual nesting boxes built into a 91-foot-tall billboard along a road.
The city also planted a 1.7-acre wildflower meadow near the insect hotel. Since bees search for pollen and nectar within 700 feet of their nesting site, this addition was crucial to the project’s success. In a nod to biodiversity, the meadow includes sand and hills for ground-nesting bee populations, such as silk bees.
The billboard was the culmination of a city-wide initiative made in collaboration with Honey Highway, an organization that transforms roads into bee-friendly locales, and Ocean Outdoor Nederland, a media company. The initiative included 316 “bee stops” on top of city bus shelters, which were redesigned to grow plants and succulents as a way to capture dust, store rainwater, and attract pollinators.