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As part of our ongoing commitment to sustainability, Irvine Company partners with urban beekeeping company Alveole to host rooftop hives on two of our Chicago buildings: 300 North LaSalle and One North Wacker. Fall is an exciting time for our pollinator coworkers, with the harvesting season in full swing. We sat down with Alveole head beekeeper Travis Sherlin to discuss what harvest time looks like for the bees, how our hives contribute to local sustainability and how Irvine Company’s customers can engage in the process.

The Honey Harvesting Process 

Throughout the summer, the Aveole team visits Irvine Company’s rooftop hives every three weeks for routine care. Come September, however, the Harvest Cycle begins. “Harvesting is an exciting time for us because we’ve been working hard in collaboration with our bees all year to grow this honey stock,” says head beekeeper Travis Sherlin. 

The bees on Irvine Company’s rooftop hives will travel up to three miles each day to collect pollen from flowers to create their honey. This means that our bees may travel even as far as Millennium Park, and that our honey’s flavor corresponds with the unique DNA of our local vegetation, making it truly one of a kind. 

Hosting rooftop beehives also means that Irvine Company isn’t just supporting the livelihood of the local bee population, but that we’re helping the local environment to thrive, too. Bees help maintain biodiversity, and support an active, productive ecosystem. Plus, having our special, homegrown supply of honey is a welcome byproduct.

Each Harvest Cycle, Alveole can collect 60 pounds of honey from Irvine Company’s hives. Our hives are Langstroth hives, stacked three boxes deep, and we take honey from only one box for our customers — the rest will be left for the bees. To harvest, the beekeepers search for fully capped honey cells on the box’s frames. Using a drawn comb, they then carefully scrape the wax caps off of the cells, where honey is stored. This wax will be strained out of the honey and can be used to make candles and other beeswax products. Meanwhile, the uncapped frames go into the centrifuge for honey extraction. After extraction, the honey is filtered, and is then ready to be bottled. Overall, from extraction to bottling, the process takes Alveole three weeks. 

“While the process takes us only three weeks,” says Sherlin, “a bee in its lifetime will only produce an eighth of a teaspoon of honey. Experiencing this process and becoming educated about the life and work of bees allows Irvine Company’s customers to really understand just how precious a teaspoon of honey in their morning cup of tea really is. And when we appreciate the tremendous impact of each bees’ life work on us, we’re one step closer to preserving and honoring this vital part of our ecosystem.” 

Getting to Know Your Bees (And Their Keepers)

Having rooftop hives not only allows us to contribute to local sustainability initiatives; Irvine Company and Alveole also partner to provide programming that will educate customers about bees, the beekeeping process and its broader impact on our world.

This year we held our educational programs virtually, with 300 North LaSalle putting on a Meet Your Bees virtual workshop and a From Hive to Honey Jar virtual event, while One North Wacker offered the From Hive To Honey Jar educational workshop and will also be offering a virtual Meet Your Beekeeper Q&A session on December 3rd. Attendance at each virtual event has been lively, with customers excited at the opportunity to break up their workday with learning more about their buildings’ bees. 

Irvine Company is also proud to gift customers with honey jars and beeswax products including lip balm, soap and candles. Made with honey from the rooftop hives, each jar is unique to the environment and flora and fauna surrounding our buildings. From virtual programming to gifts you can hold and enjoy, Irvine Company is thrilled to share in the sustainable, fascinating process of beekeeping with our customers. 

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