Is an Airport a Good Place to Keep Bees?

A growing number of airports around the world are hosting apiaries, making use of undeveloped land and producing honey.
A growing number of airports around the world are hosting apiaries, making use of undeveloped land and producing honey.

Air travel accounts for as much as 9 percent of all CO2 emissions on Earth, making it a problem area in the battle against climate change. One initiative being taken up by many of the world’s airports comes from an unexpected source. At Václav Havel Airport in Prague, for example, beekeepers care for seven colonies amounting to 350,000 bees during the summer months.

In addition to increasing the number of bee colonies decimated by a worldwide condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder, apiaries at various airports around the globe provide valuable data about air quality, gleaned from chemical analyses of honeycomb pollen. Bees are credited with pollinating more than $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year, so their rebound is also a bonus for global economies.

The rise of the airport apiary:

  • The largest airport apiary in the world is at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. More than a million bees live and work in 75 hives on previously unused land. The apiary processes thousands of pounds of honey each year, much of which is sold at the airport or used by airport restaurants.

  • At Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), data from the hives is “crucial to understanding and supporting pollinators,” according to a non-profit that sells the honey to help offset costs.

  • In Victoria, British Columbia, Harbour Air recently put four hives on the one-acre grass roof of its floating terminal for seaplanes. A “bee cam” lets waiting passengers watch the bees busy at work.

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    • A growing number of airports around the world are hosting apiaries, making use of undeveloped land and producing honey.
      A growing number of airports around the world are hosting apiaries, making use of undeveloped land and producing honey.