Airports Are Now AirBNBs For Honeybees

In the summer of 2012, honeybees swarmed the Pittsburgh airport, probably because the conditions are favorable there. Like many airports, the tarmac is surrounded by wild, wide-open fields that exist to contain the cacophony. And a couple of nearby creeks are dotted with plenty of forage-worthy wildflowers.

Free honey? Wúnderbar!

Now, nearly a decade later, the airport is home to 110 colonies that house around 4 million honeybees. And they aren’t alone. Several other US airports are getting in on the apiary action, including O’Hare, Sea-Tac, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The relationship between honeybees and airports is a symbiotic one — the honey the bees produce is a litmus test for air pollution levels around the airport, which must fall within regulations. German airports have employed bees as ‘bio-detectives’ for over twenty years, and they give the honey away for free inside the terminal. It’s okay, though — analysis reveals that the hydrocarbon and heavy metal levels in the airport honey aren’t any higher than honey from non-industrial bees.

Given that honeybees pollinate around $15 billion in crops annually in the US alone, it’s a wonder that we aren’t doing everything possible to fight colony collapse disorder and other problems around the world. This mysterious issue has grown in the last few years, and 2020 saw highest death toll since 2016. Colony collapse disorder aside, plenty of problems persist for our fuzzy friends — pests, pesticides, pathogens, and poor nutrition.

What’s the deal with bees, anyway? How do they fly? Because they aren’t supposed to fly.

THP Semifinalist: Honeybee Hive Monitoring

[Ken] keeps his bees remotely and can’t check on them as often as he might like to. He wanted some way of knowing when they were out of space, because that slows down their nectar collection. He knew he could do this by remotely tracking the weight and internal temperature of the hives.

His first prototype revolved around a postal scale that couldn’t be turned off between readings. This meant that he needed a bigger solar panel and battery than originally intended. For about a week, the hives were sending data to Thingspeak through an Arduino Fio over XBee.

The current iteration measures the load cells with an HX711 24-bit ADC. This sends the scale data to an Apitronics Bee unit, which adds in temperature data from the hives and sends everything to an Apitronics Hive. [Ken] will also stream it to a cloud service so he can monitor them in real-time. [Ken] wants to see as much data as possible and contribute to NASA’s HoneyBeeNet program, so he has a second Bee unit set up to handle a nearby Apitronics weather station.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.