|BEEHIVES AT THE AIRPORT||BILLION POLLEN SAMPLES PER YEAR||HA BIO-MONITORING BY BEES|
01 / NEW HABITATS FOR BEES
Since 2019, in cooperation with the ANA, lux-Airport has set up 4 beehives located at antenna’s foot. This collaboration harvest 88 kg of honey in 2019, and 120 kg in 2020. 2021 was a less fruitful year, with a single harvest of 30 kg in summer due to unfavorable weather conditions: a winter not cold but very long and a not very hot, and very watery spring which resulted in not producing many flowers.
In 2022, Lux-Airport’s commitment to the preservation and development of bee populations takes on another dimension with the installation of 20 new hives. These hives are spread over two sites suitable for the tranquility and good development of bee populations. Ten new hives are located in a green space created in front of the new Cargolux Headquarter. This space is dedicated to biodiversity with benje hedges for birds, flowering meadows, cairns for reptiles, as well as insect hotels.
Ten other hives were installed in a green space set back from the track and close to the forest. The two new sites are each managed by a professional beekeeper:
- Un chalet pour les abeilles in the landside area
- Hunnegkescht in the airside area
One of the hives will be "connected", i.e. it is equipped with sensors making it possible to know various parameters of the hive such as temperature, hygrometry, weight and rainfall, and thus not only to satisfy our curiosity but also and above all to ensure the good health of the bees.
But the bees will not only participate in the development of biodiversity on the airport site, they will also help us to monitoring the air and soil quality in a radius of 2 km. Indeed, a bio-monitoring campaign using bee pollen has been set up with the company BeeOmonitoring.
Bees, as “natural drones”, collect pollen and nectar. The latter, used as bio-indicators, allow daily and continuous sampling via pollen’s traps installed on some hives. No less than 8 billion samples per year over 700 ha: no technology can reach this range!
These campaigns are conducted from April to October. Pollen samples of 100 to 200g are collected 4 times during the season. The pollen thus removed will not represent a shortage for the bees, because it is only 0.3% of their entire harvest.
Thanks to these natural sentinels, we will be able to analyze the presence or absence of no less than 25 pesticides as well as various pollutants, such as heavy metals, PAHs and PFAs. But this bio-monitoring also allows us to know the floristic diversity of the plants of the airport site, to analyze the risk presented by each species, to categorize the different habitats and to estimate the specific and periodic deficiencies of the fauna and its nutritional quality for the entire ecosystem.
The results of this bio-monitoring will then make it possible to measure the impact of our improvement actions, in particular the management of green spaces or rehabilitation projects, on local wildlife and the airport environment.
The appreciation of the quality of honey by the consumer is mainly achieved by the aroma. However, there are some measurable evaluation criteria for the honey’s quality:
HMF concentration lux-Airport & ANA Honey spring & summer 2020: 1 mg / kg summer 2021: 1 mg / kg
HMF is a chemical compound resulting from the breakdown of fructose (sugar) and therefore a very good indicator of the degradation of honey. Starting from zero, its concentration will increase over time and with temperature. The HMF content therefore reflects the age and thermal history of honey. Natural honey, harvested without particular heating, contains no more than 5 mg of HMF per kg. During storage of honey (at room temperature), the HMF concentration can increase by approximately 5 to 10 mg / kg per year.
Honey must not have an HMF content greater than 80 mg / kg. This high figure is explained by the need to take into account all of the honeys produced worldwide (very high HMF contents for tropical honeys). In the European Union, the maximum level of HMF has been set at 40 mg / kg. However, these high rates are almost exclusively encountered in honeys coming from large packaging circuits. Honeys sold directly by beekeepers rarely exceed 10 mg / kg and almost never exceed 20 mg / kg.
Bee left Saccharase index or amylase / diastase lux-Airport & ANA Honey spring 2020: 46,4 dz summer 2020: 32.4 dz summer 2021: 31.5 dz
Honey contains enzymes. Their quantities vary depending on the botanical origin of the honey and the intensity of the honey. The enzymes found in honey include sucrase (or invertase) and diastase (or amylase). They are very sensitive to heat and aging. They provide more precise information than the HMF on the thermal shocks the honey was exposed to. Diastase is more resistant to temperature than sucrase. These data provide information on the proper processing of honey and its freshness.
Moisture lux-Airport & ANA Honey spring 2020: 16,8 % summer 2020: 16,2 % summer 2021: 16,3 %
Humidity is one of the most important characteristics of honey, because it plays a key role in its quality and preservation. It is involved in the viscosity, crystallization, flavor and fermentation of honey. Legal standards allow honey up to 20 percent, but only honeys with a moisture content below 18 percent keep well. Too dry (less than 16.5 percent), honey no longer releases its aromas optimally. It sticks in the mouth and dries all your saliva.
The water content of honey comes mainly from nectar but can be influenced by many factors, including harvest time, closure rate of the rays, storage conditions (before filling in jars), weather conditions and during of the harvest.
Sugars lux-Airport & ANA Honey spring & summer 2019: 1,1 fructose / glucose index
Sugar analysis is important to confirm that honey has not been «adulterated» with cooking sugar (sucrose) – it can only contain tiny traces. Indeed, nectar or honeydew contains large amounts of sucrose. Bees should be given time to develop honey to transform it into fructose and glucose.
The fructose-glucose ratio makes it possible to evaluate the rate of crystallization. An F / G index below 1.05 will cause honey to crystallize often in less than a month. Between 1.06 and 1.45, it crystallize place between 2 and 12 months. An F / G index greater than 1.45 means that the honey will remain liquid for at least one year.
As part of the analysis, the sample complies with the legal provisions of the current version of the honey ordinance for table honey. In addition to these «normal» honey quality analyses, we decided to also analyze the presence of heavy metals in honey. No measurable trace was detected.
BEES AND PLANES … A SECURITY PROBLEM?
There is little operational concern about bees interacting with aircraft: if bee and jet meet, the bee will lose. But there have been recent swarming incidents – a natural occurrence when a second queen leaves the hive in search of a new home and around half the hive’s bees follow.
In one incident, a whole swarm of bees chose to nestle in an airplane engine in South Africa. Their arrival paralyzed airport operations, and experts had to be called to safely remove the swarm from the engine. But here in Luxembourg, the risk of this happening is minimal because there are only bee farms in the immediate vicinity and our beekeepers control the swarming of their hives.
THE WORK OF THE BEEKEEPER
A new occupational area at lux-Airport: the beekeeper works from March to September. When he goes to check the swarms and their broods, he calms the bees with wood smoke. After opening the hive, he delicately removes the frames and, with a trained eye, identifies whether everything is fine or if the hive needs some help.
A beekeeper’s material consists of a suitable outfit to prevent the curious bee from entering sleeves or pockets and becoming trapped, which can often result in a sting. A bee smoker to calm them is also required to open the hive and leave the frames in peace. The reward for his careful watch and care: sweet golden honey.
02 / STOP GLYPHOSATE
WEEDS NEED TO BE KEPT IN CHECK ON THE AIRPORT. THE HUNT FOR AN ALTERNATIVE TO CONVENTIONAL WEED KILLERS LED TO A SIMPLE SOLUTION: HEAT
The principle of the thermal weeder is to create a thermal shock of 1,400°C for a fraction of a second on the aerial surface of the plant. The aim is not to burn the weed per se, but to give it a momentary blast of heat such that, within 2 days, the plant dries out and dies. This is a practical and ecological solution because no chemicals are used during weeding.
In 2016 Ripagreen® won the Grand Prize for innovation in the «sustainable development» category at Salon Vert, the largest exhibition in France for green spaces and landscapes. The Ripagreen kit and its unique heat diffuser system were held in high regard by the jury. This method consumes less energy, is faster and more effective. To be perfectly effective however, it requires a great knowledge of weed varieties, their resistance and their life cycle.