An iconic hotel in the heart of midtown Manhattan is buzzing with thousands of tiny new visitors. But watch out: They'll sting if you get too close.

Honeybees have taken up residence at the Waldorf-Astoria New York, one of New York City's most famous institutions and a favorite stopover for many U.S. presidents. The hotel plans to harvest its own honey and help pollinate plants in the skyscraper-heavy heart of the city, joining a mini beekeeping boom that has taken over hotel rooftops from Paris to Times Square.

"Today about half the population of each hive, the foragers, are flying mostly in the direction of Central Park," explained Andrew Cote, the Waldorf's beekeeper-in-residence, on a recent sunny afternoon as he inspected each hive.

Beekeeping is a natural fit for hotels trying to keep up with industrywide pressure to "go green," whether it's retrofitting their buildings to make them energy efficient or simply adopting environmentally conscious practices. Enter urban beekeeping, a buzz-worthy pastime nowadays in light of the mysterious disappearance of honeybees in recent years, which led some state agriculture departments to encourage hobby beekeeping.

About one-third of the nation's diet benefits from honeybee pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In New York City, the bees will help pollinate new trees that have taken root as part of the city's plan to plant 1 million trees over the next decade.

At the Waldorf, the insects are visible from certain rooms, and guests can sign up for tours of the hives -- although they may want to put on a bee suit first.

Cote is something of a celebrity in the beekeeping world, having waged a successful campaign against the city's ban on keeping bees, which was lifted in 2010. He sells jars of honey at green markets throughout the city, tends hundreds of hives from Connecticut to Manhattan and founded the nonprofit Bees Without Borders and the New York City Beekeepers Association.

In keeping with the Waldorf's posh reputation, the bees arrived in a luxury car in April and were escorted through the lobby to their new home on the 20th floor roof deck. There are six hives in total; the most mature one already has 20,000 bees and counting.

The Waldorf's first batch of honey is expected be ready for harvest by early summer.

"Honey's such a versatile ingredient that we can use it anywhere," said David Garcelon, the Waldorf's executive chef, who has been experimenting with new honey-infused recipes.

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