Something is abuzz at Irvine Company buildings in Chicago. 300 North LaSalle and One North Wacker are both host to urban rooftop apiaries — where up to 50,000 honeybees can live in each hive. Irvine Company partners with urban beekeeping company Alveole to house these fascinating creatures on our green roofs.
Bees are vital to our survival — pollinators are responsible for 35% of all the food we eat. But with the rise of monoculture crop planting (where a farm plants and harvests only one crop), the bee population has suffered dramatically. The mysterious disappearance of bees has been noted over the past 15 years, with a nearly 40% decline in bee population reported since the winter of 2017 alone.
And for those who have been vigilant about honeybees and their vital role in our lives, urban beekeeping is a surprising, powerful response to ensure the survival of our busy bee helpers.
Bees are vital to our survival — pollinators are responsible for 35% of all the food we eat, pollinating more than 130 varieties of fruit and vegetables. Introducing bees to urban, rather than rural areas, allows them to thrive in a new habitat with the absence of pesticides, abundance of water and floral resources and temperate climate.
Bees do just as well in the city as they do in the country — each day, bees travel up to three miles from their hive in search of nectar and pollen to bring back to the queen. That means that from the Irvine Company rooftops, our bees are travelling to Millennium Park where they feast on the abundance of flowers there.
Meet Your Bees
The bees in Irvine’s hives are a Italian breed of honeybees, bred over five years to be sweet and gentle with their visitors, so they are highly unlikely to sting. All hives are comprised of 90% female worker bees and 10% male bees, whose sole purpose is reproduction with the singular queen of the hive. The queen bee populates the entire hive, laying up to 2,000 eggs a day. The population of the hive is self-regulating, with worker bees only living 30-45 days in the summer season. The queen, however, can live up to several years.
The bees at One North Wacker are located on 50th floor next to a vegetable garden with cherry tomatoes, basil and more. At 300 North LaSalle, the bees are on the 58th floor on our sustainable green roof. Every three weeks throughout the warm season, expert beekeepers from Alveole check on the bees. These check-ups occur until the fall months when the honey is harvested. All beehives create honey with a unique, distinctive taste, determined by the local flora and fauna from which the bees feed. For each Irvine Company beehive, Alveole guarantees 60 pounds of honey, with additional perks like candles, soaps and lip balms made with beeswax in a custom-designed package just for our customers.
Through the summer season, Irvine Company customers are welcome to tag along during check-ups and honey harvesting to meet the bees, their beekeepers and learn more about the process. As part of our partnership with Alveole, we also offer two educational workshops for each building and their hive.
At 300 North LaSalle, we will be hosting Discover The World of Bees and From Hive to Honey Jar in the fall. Discover The World of Bees is a seminar-style workshop where the audience follows the lifecycle of a bee, followed by a Q&A and honey-tasting, and leave feeling empowered with knowledge and passion for their pollinators. From Hive to Honey Jar allows a small group to participate in the harvest and extraction of honey from the One North Wacker hive. Participants will even get to take a spin at using the centrifuge!
A Sustainable Process
We love our bees not just because of their bumbling charm and sweet, delicious honey, but because they help us contribute to sustainable processes. Urban beekeeping is a phenomenal educational tool, particularly in the city where it helps people reconnect with nature in new and exciting ways. Hosting bees in the city also positively impacts the surrounding ecosystem by supporting biodiversity — it allows plants and the other animals that depend on them to flourish.
At Irvine Company in Chicago, all of our buildings are LEED Platinum certified, and we’re constantly pushing ourselves to further pursue sustainability in innovative ways. Not only do we cherish supporting our Chicago community, but we care about the broader state of our world. Our partnership with Alveole allows us to give back both locally, and globally, at a time when supporting our pollinators is most crucial.