Half a million Honeybees are now buzzing around Sea-Tac Airport’s open space
A half-million honeybees have become the newest flying objects to join with 777s and other aircraft that call the airport home as the Port of Seattle has partnered with the nonprofit The Common Acre in a project named Flight Path, which makes Sea-Tac one of the first airports in the nation to feature an apiary.
Six hives sit at three vacant, undeveloped sites near the field. Like most airports, Sea-Tac has large tracts of open land that provide an added buffer for both safety and noise mitigation such as the runway protection zones.
With open space around the airfield and bee populations in decline, the Port of Seattle says the airport is uniquely suited to host honeybees and other pollinators. A long-term goal is to promote hardy bee populations in the region by increasing their genetic diversity and supporting them with adequate habitat.
“As a leader in sustainability, we are pleased to become one of the first airports in the U.S. to host bees,” said Port Commissioner Bill Bryant. “Bees are a critical part of the food chain and connect with our goal of growing sustainably and increasing the economic contributions of the port while reducing our environmental footprint.”
Honeybees pollinate approximately one-third of all U.S. crops that humans eat and three quarters of all of the flowering plants in the world, the Port of Seattle said in a news release. As a key part of the food chain, bees provide a regional benefit and further the Port’s goal of helping the local economy through a robust agriculture industry and related jobs. An estimated $15 billion worth of freight, including agricultural products, is exported through Sea-Tac each year.
In the face of the massive national and regional decline of bees, the program will contribute to the number of healthy bees in the region. Deforestation, disease, urbanization, invasive species and harmful agricultural and land management practices all contribute to the decline of honeybees, the Port said. The project will raise and select for the highest quality queen bees to help strengthen hive health for other beekeepers in western Washington.
Bees at Sea-Tac also will contribute to the port’s local conservation efforts at the airport’s wetland mitigation sites where nearly 150,000 plantings and other restorative projects have been underway since 2007.
“We’re excited to work with the Port of Seattle to support pollinator health,” said Bob Redmond, director of The Common Acre and lead beekeeper for Flight Path. “This project is a poster child for land stewardship: the habitat, the bees, and our food system all benefit. The port’s leadership is exemplary — I hope Flight Path becomes a model for other projects in the region and nationwide.”
Seattle-based non-profit The Common Acre advocates healthy agriculture through practical programs like this one, as well as through arts and education programs. In addition to the conservation elements of Flight Path, The Common Acre also is launching an arts program to educate and inspire youth and adults.
To increase public awareness of the importance of honeybees, Sea-Tac Airport will host a bee art and educational exhibit on concourse B. The exhibit, slated to open in January 2014, will include work on the subject of flight and bees by local artists Mandy Greer, Jason Puccinelli, David Lasky, Celeste Cooning and many others.