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Airport Calls in the Beekeepers to Save Pollinators

Port of seattle

What is black and yellow, fuzzy, makes a buzz, makes honey, and lives in an airport? Don’t let that last part fool you, it’s the bees.

Bees are being welcomed into the neglected land surrounding Pittsburgh International Airport to help rebuild the number of colonies in the state. This is after the airport’s wildlife manager, Ben Shertzer, found several colonies attached to the underside of a plane’s wings.

As the world’s top pollinators, bees rule the fate of literally billions of dollars in agriculture and the existence of many of our fruits and nuts.

Beekeepers move their hives around the country pollinating meadows and orchards, and it is estimated that 35% of agricultural products in the US depend to some extent on bees.

Shertzer had to hire Steve Repasky, a master beekeeper, to remove the hives from the Delta plane’s wings, but it also sparked an interest in buzzing insects, an interest that led to the plight of bees throughout. the world. and how valuable they are to our society.

The two men devised a plan to use the forests and uncut fields around the outside of the airport to house an apiary, but they had to wait several years for a sympathetic manager with the plight of the apids to begin.

Now spread over 8,000 acres and 110 colonies, 4 million bees buzz around airport property and are helping staff monitor the air pollution created at the facility in a curious way.

Swarming behavior, when in spring a hive separates and the bees wander a mile or more away in search of a new home, it seemed like it was going to be a problem, since at one point Repasky was removing 15 hives a year from vehicles. and runway planes.

Steve Repasky, Pittsburgh International Airport

However, the “swarm traps” placed on the edges of the asphalt have reduced this number to three.

Air & Space Magazine reports that many airports in the country and around the world are starting to have bees, including Seattle-Tacoma, Austin-Bergstrom, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

It’s a curious trend that could help reverse decades of declines in bee populations, which are starting to rise again thanks to reductions in pesticide use and the efforts of people like Shertzer.

For example, in Germany, honey collected (and given away for free at certain airports) is tested for traces of heavy metals and hydrocarbons to see if air pollution regulations are being met.


It turns out that honey is equivalent to honey produced in areas without heavy industry – a really exciting find.

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