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Airport monitoring air quality with 750,000 bees

Malta International Airport’s honeybee population has more than doubled, with a second airport apiary, which now has around 750,000 resident queens, workers and drones!

Why and how?

Well, Malta International Airport (MIA) first joined its international peers, the likes of Munich Airport, Malmo Airport and Chicago O’Hare, in rehabilitating a piece of land into a thriving bee-friendly habitat. This was done back in 2016, as the airport collaborated with a local beekeeper, to set up the first apiary on the Ħal Safi side of the airport perimeter.

MIA expects to harvest no less than 270kg of honey over course of the year, provided that weather conditions, particularly the rainfall, are favourable.

Two airside areas, which cover around 150sq metres have been transformed, primarily through the introduction of indigenous and melliferous plants in addition to existing flora, as part of MIA’s contribution to the revival of bee colonies, which have been on the decline as of late.

What has it all got to do with air quality?

Well, according to the MIA, “this eco-project is mutually beneficial as samples of the honey produced at the airport are independently analysed in a laboratory for pollutants and benchmarked with samples of honey from apiaries located in a rural environment in the north of Malta, thereby enabling Malta International Airport to measure and monitor air quality.”

Also, tests conducted from 2018 onwards showed that the concentration of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), both of which can arise from aviation and vehicle fuel combustion, was well within levels permitted by the EU.

Super interesting, right?