Beekeeper Jamie Meredith prepares hives on the roof of Music City Center, Nashville. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM NASHVILLE, TENN. — The Nashville Music City Center became the second convention center in North America to add beekeeping to its moxie.

About 100,000 European honeybees, along with four hives, arrived at the center the first of June and began to make the downtown facility’s four-acre green roof their home.

They must be happy with their new digs because Jamie Meredith, beekeeper, said just two weeks into the project that he feels it might be time to put a medium-sized super on top of the larger deep super.

New tenants buzzing around the roof of Music City Center call all of Nashville home. (VT Photo)

A super, he explained, is the part of the managed beehive used to collect the honey. The managed beehive has a brood box on the bottom and once that is full, the supers are added. Supers look like the brood box but are stacked on top to allow the hive to expand.

“And, it is the smaller supers that we will rob for the honey,” Meredith said.

The honey stored in the supers exceeds the level needed for the bees to get through the winter.

The beekeeping is another sustainability effort the center is undertaking. The hives are located on the center’s green roof, which is planted with 14 different varieties of sedum, according to Amanda Littleford, sustainability coordinator.

“Sedum is a succulent plant that absorbs water and is easy to take care of’,” Littleford said.  “The plants can take direct sunlight and they help reduce our energy usage.”

The City Center’s roof is made of a PVC membrane. On top of that membrane, staff laid down compost to about one and one-inch deep. The sedum was then planted.

The vegetation helps to absorb heat and acts as an insulation to reduce the amount of energy needed to provide heating and cooling. The exhibit hall is located directly underneath this area of the roof.

The PVC waterproofing membrane extends the life of the roof by protecting it from UV rays and wind and by absorbing the rain water.

The building traps and uses all of its rainwater runoff to flush the venue’s toilets.

“There are pipes under the soil which catch the rainwater,” Littleford said. “We also catch the rainwater through other pipes on the roof. ”

There are four hives on the roof. Meredith is not sure if there will be a harvest this year because of the time of year the bees were brought in, but a fall harvest is possible. The Music City Center’s Executive Chef Max Knoepfel is already gearing up to use the honey in a variety of ways in the kitchen, said Mary Brette Clippard, the center’s marketing and public relations manager.

After this first year, they expect the hives to produce about 400 pounds of honey.

“Anything left over, we will bottle and probably give away to clients,” Clippard said.

Music City Center’s CEO Charles Starks first saw roof beekeeping at the Vancouver (British Columbia) Convention Centre when he visited there. Clippard said he brought the idea home and they began to look into the possibility.

“Through an employee here, someone knew someone else that knew Jamie,” Clippard said. “That is how we found him. He is actually volunteering to do this.”

The bees were obtained from another beekeeper in Brentwood, Tenn., just south of Nashville.
The entire beekeeping endeavor has cost the center about $2,500.

Meredith said urban beekeeping has become very popular. The fact that the bees are located on the center’s roof may help reduce issues that plague other hives from time to time, such as the introduction of other insects.

“The last time I looked through one of the hives I found only one beetle and that is really unusual,” he said.

Littleford said she has been asked ‘why have the bees on the roof?’

“I don’t think people realize how much plant growth is in the city,” she said.

Music City Center officials are excited about the honey and are encouraged by the publicity they are getting since one of the reasons  they wanted to do this project is to educate the public on the importance of honeybees.

Littleford said plans are to locate a camera on top of the roof to enable live streaming of the hive for viewers on a lower floor. That should happen sometime during the summer.

“At some point then, we will have it up on our Website as well,” Littleford said.

The Music City Center celebrated its second anniversary in May. In those two years, there have been 620 events held there with 1.1 million in attendance generating 633,025 room nights for a total of $550.7 million in direct economic impact.

Interviewed for this story: Jamie Meredith, Mary Brett Clippard, and Amanda Littleford, (615) 401-1400