Malta airport monitors air quality with 750,000 bees in airfield apiary

Two airside areas covering around 150 square metres have been transformed into bee-friendly habitats

Malta International Airport’s honeybee population has more than doubled with a second airport apiary that now has aroudn three quarters of a million resident queens, workers and drones.

Malta International Airport first joined international peers – the likes of Munich Airport; Malmö Airport; Václav Havel; and Chicago O’Hare – in rehabilitating a parcel of land into a thriving bee-friendly habitat in 2016, collaborating with a local beekeeper to set up a first apiary on the Ħal Safi side of the airport perimeter.

Malta International Airport expects to harvest more than 270 kilos of honey over the course of the year provided that weather conditions, particularly rainfall, are favourable.

Two airside areas covering around 150 square metres have been transformed into bee-friendly habitats, primarily through the introduction of indigenous and melliferous plants in addition to existing flora, as part of Malta International Airport’s contribution to the revival of bee colonies which have been on the decline due to a number of threats.

“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 aparies located in a rural environment in the north of Malta, thereby enabling Malta International Airport to measure and monitor air quality,” MIA said.

Tests conducted from 2018 onwards revealed 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 the levels permitted by the European Union.

Airport test results were comparable to honey samples produced in a rural environment, in that they were not contaminated by heavy metals or PAHs.