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What Are Beehives Doing on a Downtown Austin Hotel Rooftop?

Sorry bats, there’s been a new wildlife sighting in downtown Austin: a colony of honeybees is now living atop a high-rise boutique hotel.

In a small clearing between the network of pipes, condensers, fans and ducts that runs across the roof of the W Austin Hotel, ten bright beehives are humming. To create this buzz, the W partnered with Central Texas Bee Rescue, a local nonprofit on a mission to save the endangered honeybee.

Beekeeper Walter Schumacher started the colony with feral bees he’d rescued from walls, roofs and trees in nearby neighborhoods. Valerie Broussard, the W’s forager and head of the hotel’s green team, is working with Schumacher to prepare for the first honey harvest this June.

So what makes these bees want to stay at the W?

“Each box has a queen," Schumacher says. “She emits a pheromone and that is the trigger that keeps the bees there and loyal. And we give them a beautiful condo in one of the most expensive parts of town.”

The honey harvest will add a sweet touch everywhere at the W. The rooftop honey will make signature appearances to the menu at Trace, the hotel’s restaurant; in the bar’s cocktails; in treatments at the Away spa; and even in the in-room mini-bar.

“From the beginning,” Broussard says, “there’s been an intention to be conscious of all our choices. Trace is called ‘Trace’ because we emphasis traceability of the ingredients. It’s great. We’ll be able to watch the spinning and know exactly how it got to our table.”

On Thursday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m., Trace will celebrate the first-ever honey harvest with a free, public event. Wear black and yellow to try cocktails and special recipes made with honey from the aerial hives. 

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