01 / Bees at lux-Airport

In July, the airport of Luxembourg welcomed some 100,000 new «flying employees». If their arrival escaped your notice, it is because they are really tiny and pretty busy. Their work, however, is most important as they are indirectly responsible for the production of one third of the food we consume. Indeed, they are among the most effective pollinating insects. Yes, you guessed correctly: they are honey bees.




We have implemented several eco-friendly programs at lux-Airport as part of our efforts to improve the local environment and reduce our carbon footprint. One is our partnership with the Administration de la Navigation Aérienne (ANA) to implement the «Bees at Luxembourg Airport» project.

In recent years, bees around the world have experienced a phenomenon called «bee colony collapse syndrome» which sees deserted hives at the end of winter and an estimated loss of 30 percent of bees on average. Environmental factors such as pesticides, disease or habitat loss have been blamed for this massive die-off.

In addition to environmental concerns, this problem threatens to have significant economic consequences because 84 percent of plant species cultivated in Europe depend directly on pollinators like the honey bee. But is it a good idea to have bees at airports? At first glance, our bees seem to have little concern for noise and enjoy themselves very well in their new environment which combines very few agricultural pesticides with the great diversity of plants found on the late-mowed meadows of the airport enclosure. And there are more good news for our busy friends: the airport has stopped using glyphosate. Together with the constant care of the ANA beekeepers, this makes for seemingly happy bee colonies.

«Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t, they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.»

Ray Bradbury


But honey is only part of the story. Bees do a lot more at lux-Airport: they also help monitor the air quality. Because bees cover a large area, honey samples are considered to be perfectly representative of local environmental conditions. As a result, the honey produced by our bees will be analyzed by a certified body and used as biomarkers of pollution.

Our initiative aims at promoting the preservation of biodiversity by introducing the best pollinator insect while at the same time contributing to the ongoing testing of air quality by the competent authorities. Our bees are now perfectly at home in two hives and ideally placed under tall pines in a protected area with easy access to the meadows along the runway. We are looking forward to some 50 kilograms or more of honey in mid-2018, which will be distributed to partners and customers.


Left to right: Laurent Schank – ANA Beekeeper, Tessy Eiffener – ANA Internal / External Communication Manager, Yves Becker – ANA Environmental Manager, Claudio Clori – Director of the ANA, Meho Dzinic – ANA Beekeeper, René Steinhaus – CEO lux-Airport, Sandrine Trapp – Environmental officer lux-Airport, Christophe Thill – Legal counseler lux-Airport, Rebecca Pecnik-Welsch – Marketing & Communications Manager lux-Airport


Honey analysis



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: 1 mg / kg

HMF is a very good indicator of the degradation of honey.

HMF is a chemical compound resulting from the breakdown of fructose (sugar). 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: 51 dz 
summer: 19.7 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.


lux-Airport & ANA Honey 
spring: 16,9 %
summer: 16,5 %

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.

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.

Bee leftSugars

lux-Airport & ANA Honey 
spring & summer: 1,1 fructose / glucose index


Fructose and glucose. 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.


2019 Harvest

Shared between ANA and lux-Airport:


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.



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.





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.

«We just have to inform that Ponts&Chaussées already don’t use glyphosate for the green areas and runway.»

Sandrine Trapp – Environmental Officer, lux-Airport

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.




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