Aircraft and honey: Bees are playing a key role in “monitoring” Airbus’ environmental footprint

Airbus’ comprehensive families of market-leading widebody and single-aisle aircraft aren’t the company’s only products creating a “buzz.”

28 July 2014 Feature story

To help analyze the environmental footprint of its operations at Finkenwerder Airport in Hamburg, Germany, Airbus also produces more than 600 jars of honey per year from beehives on site.

As part of the company’s bio-monitoring efforts, honey from these bees – which collect the pollen and nectar from hundreds of thousands of plants across an approximately 12-square-kilometre area – can provide key data on the quality of surrounding soil, air and water. For example, any metal or chemical deposits in flowers from the surrounding areas would also be detected in the honey.

The honey is sent to an independent laboratory for analysis, with results from this project – which was launched five years ago – showing pollution levels from Airbus facilities are even lower than in the Hamburg city centre, and no higher than other areas. 

“We have tested three different parameters this year: wax, pollen and honey, from two different beehive locations,” said Airbus’ fulltime beekeeper Eberhard Schädlich, who was previously an electronics technician with the company. “We are very proud to say that every single result shows pollution levels are well under approved limits."

The beehives are situated in two locations at Airbus’ Hamburg facilities: near the aircraft paint shop and close to the runway where new-build jetliners carry out flight tests. In total, the tens of thousands of bees in these hives produce more than 160 kg. of honey annually, which is jarred and also given away as presents to customers, suppliers and Airbus staff. 

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