The Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade is now host to some unusual guests.
When occupants lounge in the lobby, they will be able to see an array of bees abuzz on the roof if they look up through the multi-level windows.
The hotel on San Antonio’s northwest side is being transformed into an apiary housing bees rescued and redistributed by the Central Texas Bee Rescue program based in Austin.
The 250,000 bees residing in the white boxes will pollinate a growing collection of plants on the hotel’s 6,000-square-foot roof, providing honey to be used by the hotel’s restaurant and spa, said Walter Schumacher, founder and “bee czar” of the program, based in Austin and responsible for bee rescues in San Antonio and surrounding areas.
“We can make every square inch of this roof into a green space – we’ll provide the bees with food to create a micro-farm on this roof,” he said. “All the plants will lead to a pathway where the bees will hang out.”
Schumacher and his teammates rescued the hives from homes and businesses where residents sought bee removal. The beekeepers have been working to nurture the rescued hives back to health for several months, feeding them a fresh fruit mash.
The beekeepers use cole vegetables provided by H-E-B Central Market and will sell honey at the store, with proceeds supporting bee rescue programs. Schumacher estimated the bees would produce about 2,000 pounds of honey over the course of the year, with the majority of it going to the kitchen and back to the association.
The group also works with Texas companies to create complementary honey products, including honey-infused chocolate produced by Chocosutra.
While the queen bees would not emerge during the press conference because of the 55-degree air, they will emerge and fly as far away as two miles once temperatures warm up.
The group will carry out a bee rescue and rooftop installation at the Omni Hotel on the River Walk in February, Schumacher said.
Jeremy Lander, director of sales and marketing at the Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade, said the bees are a great amenity to have at the hotel, providing guests a unique view of a rooftop farm and a way for chefs at the hotel’s Bolo’s Restaurant to implement honey into new recipes and products, including a memento of San Antonio honey at the gift shop.
Schumacher and his crew will be visiting the hotel on a weekly basis to tend to the bees and ultimately to harvest the honey.
Chef Samuel Bolsjoly said he would be incorporating the honey into the hotel banquet department and using it in Bolo’s desserts and breakfast items. The honey will be used in marinades and aguas frescas, as well.
Central Texas Bee Rescue, working under the auspices of the American Honey Bee Protection Agency, is a 501(c)3 organization whose Epic Honey Bee Co-Op Program provides tax-exempt investment opportunities to people or businesses interested in securing a local supply of honey for business or personal use.
Central Texas Bee Rescue seeks new locations to set up bee hives, working with property owners to set up hives and split the profits from honey sales. The organization works with both domesticated and feral bees.
*Set/featured image: A view of the rescued bee Nucs on the roof of the Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade. Photo by Iris Dimmick.