MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you think of bees, do you think of downtown Minneapolis? The chefs at the Marquette Hotel do.

They started keeping bees on the roof three years ago. Thursday was the day to harvest some of this year’s honey, and check on the bees before winter.

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“I will leave probably close to 60 to 70 percent of the honey in each hive,” Banquette Chef Mark Lowman said.

These bees have been working all summer to save food for winter. Leaving the majority of the honey in the hives will still allow four to six pounds for the humans. And a little goes a long way.

“I mean, if you’re making a sauce or a soup, a teaspoon will sweeten a half gallon almost,” Lowman said. “When you think about a pound of honey, it’s roughly a quart.”

The smoke and the bee suits are needed for this harvesting process. Lowman says the bees see this as someone breaking into their home and stealing part of their life savings. But maintaining the hives helps bees survive.

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“In the last 25 years, it’s been almost a 25-percent decline in the population of American bees,” he said.

Executive Chef Dan Klein says harvesting honey and helping the bee population has been a great move for the hotel.

“A great opportunity to not only help the environmentalist movements to save the bee population, but also an opportunity to help utilize the honey from the rooftop, and also help pollinate all of our vegetables and herbs that we have on the roof as well,” Klein said.

The bees on the roof of the Marquette Hotel do not just stay on the roof. They fly 200 feet down to street level, and travel within a 10-mile radius of their hives.

“There’s actually bees whose job is to just fly out and find where food is,” Lowman said. “And they come back and report it to other bees who go out and collect the food.”

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There are three colonies on the Marquette’s roof, with an estimated population of 10,000 bees.

Jennifer Mayerle