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Pittsburgh airport honored for its honeybee program

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — While passenger traffic at Pittsburgh International Airport is slowly getting back to normal, there’s a big buzz happening just off the tarmac.

The airport has an on-site apiary program, which was created after a large bee swarm delayed a flight.

>>PHOTOS: Pittsburgh airport honored for its honeybee program

“In 2012, in August, we had a Delta flight that was going to LaGuardia. As they were loading the plane, a swarm of bees came across the airfield and landed on the aircraft. All of the ground crews stepped back from the aircraft and with the initial fear of stinging insects, nobody wanted to get around it,” said Ben Shertzer, the wildlife administrator at the airport.

The bees could have been sprayed and killed, but instead, the airport partnered with a local beekeeper to save the honeybees. The program has a direct impact on a large percentage of everything we eat.

“Honeybees are declining. They’re a species of concern in that they’re responsible for upwards of 80% of the food that we eat,” said Steve Repasky, a certified master beekeeper.

By having colonies all around the airport, the bees are no longer hanging out on airplane wings.

There are 30 individual colonies in nine locations across the airport property. Each colony has 10,000 to 20,000 bees, which means there are over 4 million bees in total. That’s pretty mind-blowing.

This year, the airport program received the Governors' Award for Environmental Excellence.

In the future, the honey made from the airport bees will be sold at the airside terminal.