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What's the buzz? Akron-Canton Airport introduces millions of bees to the airfield

Bees crawl and take flight around colonies that have been introduced to the Akron-Canton Airport airfield.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Bees crawl and take flight around colonies that have been introduced to the Akron-Canton Airport airfield.

Akron-Canton Airport is now the home of something else that flies. Sixty beehives have been installed as part of a new initiative to bolster the bee population in the community.

On a small plot of the airport’s land sits five pallets with wooden boxes containing bee hives. Despite the freeze warning Thursday morning, bees began to crawl out of the hives into the sun soaked field. The airport has selected three sites to house as many as 3.5 million bees, airport President and CEO Ren Camacho said.

“We’re super excited about what eventually can come out of this, including not only preserving the bee population and enhancing it, but also producing honey that may be sold at the airport," Camacho said.

The airport’s Environmental Services Assistant Manager Adam Dietry came up with the idea to introduce the airport apiaries after he considered taking up beekeeping at home.

"The more research I did for home, I found out that more airports — and it just so happens I work at one — that more airports are starting airport apiaries and just because you have plenty of space, plenty of lush land, waterways, wetlands and foraging for them," Dietry said.

Several other airports, including Pittsburgh’s, have started apiaries in recent years. After pitching the idea to Camacho, Dietry began calling local beekeepers to get advice on how to start the project. That's when he met Mike White from Hartville Honey Bee Farm.

"Not only does he want to help us learn it and spread his knowledge, but he also decided to bring 60 hives here to our airport grounds," Dietry said. "So we have 2,400 acres here that they can have all the space they need."

The bees travel up to two miles away to access main sources of food and water, Dietry said. With 60 hives, the bee population can be anywhere between 1.5 million to 3.5 million and will grow with time. The honey the bees eventually will produce can also be analyzed to give the airport an idea of the area's air quality, he said.

“It gives us a heads up on other things we could do to be on the lookout to better our environmental quality," Dietry said.

Hartville Honey Bee Farm is caring for the bees for now, but Dietry hopes to learn the ropes and eventually introduce more bee colonies. He's also looking for grants to fund the project, now that it's off the ground.

"Super excited about the opportunity and contributing our little part to an environmental ecosystem that really is meant to be thriving for the betterment and enhancement ... of the community and partners alike," Camacho said.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.