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May 08, 2017

There are half a million bees on top of the Sofitel Philadelphia

The bees aren't pests; they're working for the hotel

Food & Drink Restaurants
Carroll -Bees on the Sofitel Hotel Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Apiarist Don Shump of the Philadelphia Bee Company explains the beekeeping operation on the roof of the Sofitel Hotel in Center City.

Some hotels boast a central location. Some boast luxury. The Sofitel Philadelphia, while it does have both those admirable features, can boast about something no other Philly hotel has: half a million bees on the rooftop.

Why is that something to brag about? The bees aren't pests. They're working for the hotel.

The bees, 15 stories up, pollinate a rooftop garden where herbs and vegetables are grown for Sofitel's contemporary French restaurant Liberté Lounge

Forget farm-to-table; this is rooftop-to-table.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Herbs and vegetables grow in the seasonal rooftop garden of the Sofitel Hotel.

There are eight hives with around 60,000 bees each to pollinate plants like lemon verbena, Turkish eggplant, red and gold beets, cherry tomatoes and chives.

Everything grown in the garden is used in the spring lunch and dinner menus. As for the bees' honey, it's used in pastries, salad dressings and cocktails.

Each hive's honey is unique. How honey tastes, as well as its color and texture, depends on where bees get their nectar and pollen and depends on the season.

Below are a few of the new seasonal menu items from Liberté Lounge's new executive chef Edward Hancock.

•Crispy Pork Belly – with tomato confit, braised kale, roasted garlic aioli and rye
Cape May Crab Cake – pico de gallo, salsa verde
•Grilled Asparagus – with naked tomatoes, Reggiano, pea tendrils and tomato emulsion
•Lemon Verbena Crème Brulée - with honey shortbread
•13th on Sansom cocktail – Elijah Craig bourbon, jalapeño, ginger puree, lemon juice, bitters and honey
•75006 cocktail – Cîroc, St. Germain, grapefruit juice and rosemary

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Cape May Crab Cake with pico de gallo and salsa verde.

Bee hives on top of a hotel might seem strange, but Don Shump, apiarist from Philadelphia Bee Company, assures us it's not.

For one thing, spending the summer on a scorching roof isn't an issue for a bee.

"Bees can do hot. There was a study done in 1954 where [bees were placed] in lava fields in Italy and left for two years. The bees did just fine with temperatures exceeding 154 degrees," Shump stated.

Bees thriving in an urban environment isn't a concern, either.

"Paris has had bees in the city since the 1850s. They have one of the oldest beekeeping schools in the world."

02_050817_SofitelBees_Carroll.jpgThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Bee hives on the roof of the Sofitel Hotel contain more than 480,000 honeybees.

The Sofitel Philadelphia, which blends French and American styles, is located at 120 S. 17th St.