As airports grow, new tenants swarm in
Background on beekeeping
Bees are an essential part of the American agricultural system as they are responsible for pollination. Bees affect $15 billion worth of agricultural products. Honey production is valued at $336 million based on a 2016 study.
Pesticide use and loss of biodiversity threaten these benefits. Bee populations have dwindled by 23% from 2008 to 2013. Without bees, plant growth is severely limited, thus decreasing potential agricultural yield. This could become a very BIG problem. No bees, no crops, no food.
Some of the needed new bee populations have made airport properties their home.
Now arriving at ORD, SEA, MSP and beyond…
Concerned passengers may leave their insect repellant at home. Hives are not placed near terminals. FAA regulations specify significant amounts of undeveloped land airports must maintain surrounding runways. This is done for noise abatement and safety. This leaves plenty of room and ample pollen sources for bees.
Seven years ago, the first of 75 apiaries were installed at Chicago O’Hare. In partnership with government and civic organizations, over 1 million bees have produced 40 pounds of honey per hive on undeveloped grassy land along a tree line.
The Port of Seattle, also partnering with a local group, installed a half-million honeybees at Sea-Tac Airport. That was in 2013. Since then, more airports have installed “bee box” apiaries on buffer land.
Beyond conservation reasons, airports keep bees to promote community relations, highlighting a commitment to environmental sustainability. Bee Veterans Apiary, an established organization at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport promotes the therapeutic benefits of beekeeping for veterans.
Lauren Crawford, a marketing analyst for Zurn Industries, is also a beekeeper. She sees airports and beekeeping as symbiotic. Honeybees benefit from apiaries and foraging space while airports benefit from improved environmental impact and community relations.
The latest buzz at MCO
Construction at a smaller scale recently occurred in a wooded area even farther south.
In April, 2018, a 48-hive apiary was established. That brought a bee population of 4 million to a remote area, far from the 44 million passengers who travel through MCO within a year.
Bees are good for their human neighbors, however distant. Their work as pollinators is essential to maintaining the natural landscape, and they limit intrusion of unwanted African or Africanized colonies.