Bees in Our World

January 22, 2018

The Bon Appétit Management Company dining team at SAP is extremely proud to do their small, but very significant part in helping to sustain the healthy food system in Palo Alto.

This SAP campus is surrounded by rolling hills of wild habitat for coyote, deer and assorted birdlife, and is the perfect, natural habitat for a happy honey bee culture. SAP’s first beehive came on campus at the end of 2013, and has since grown into five tall towers thriving with each wooden slat inside the hive full of honey filled combs.

During the honey spinning sessions, the dining team travels to the hives, dressed in full body white suits, face netting and gloves. To assure safety for all, bees and associates, the hives are ‘smoked’ by using a small tin can with a straw burning inside passed near the hives.

When the tops are removed from each tower, between four and five boxes can be seen. Each box has approximately ten vertical slats full of wax combs storing. The wax often features light and dark shades across the surface, which are the mark of different flower types the bees have sampled. Some of these combs contain baby bees, and once in a great while, a young queen.

Education is an important part of the effort to spread impact of bee-cultures and the need to sustain them. Just this last June, Bon Appétit and SAP sponsored the Healthy Kids and Honey Bee event, which is designed to help educate kids on the importance of bees in our food ecosystem. The day starts with a visit to the Kitchen Garden, followed by a look at the beehives and a workshop on how bees pollenate much of our food. This is followed by a sampling of three types of honey tasting and a live hive demo supported by to help bring this critically important idea home.

Though famous for their honey, and as the most economically important pollinators, bees play an even more crucial role in agriculture. They are as essential to working farms as seeds, soil, sun and water. Without the help of these little farmworkers pollinating flowers during their nectar-collecting flight, we wouldn’t enjoy almonds, blueberries, avocados, squashes, and many other foods. Honeybees pollinate nearly 100 crops in the US, a remarkable 30 percent of our food supply, worth over $15 billion each year.

Bees have been declining by one-third each year since 2006 with a 42 percent bee colony loss from 2014 to 2015, which increased by 34 percent from 2013. The decline is complicated by a variety of factors: the varroa parasite mite compromises their immune system and opens the door for other diseases, pathogens, nutritional stress, pesticides, and the lack of varied nutrition. The loss of habitat and plant diversity caused by vast agricultural monocrops can also impact bee populations.

The dining team at SAP supports bees by growing plants and herbs in the Kitchen Garden. The Kitchen Garden consists of 12 raised beds which are a magnet for the bees, whose hives are situated on the hill just above the garden. The garden is also planted for seasonality, which attracts bees.

Here’s how to help bees thrive in your community:

  • Plant flowers that are organic and of native varieties, while using natural remedies to control pests
  • Provide year-round resources for the bees, by planning flowers that bloom in succession
  • Plant flowers close together in large patches and leave overwintering stalks up until spring for the shelter

Click here to read the full 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.