Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport is not only home to a fleet of planes, but it also home to flying objects of the natural world – bees.
Around 36 bee hives filled with thriving honeybees are located in three different apiaries around the airfield.
The hives have been in place at Sea-Tac since 2013, when the Port of Seattle joined forces with local nonprofit The Common Acre to establish Flight Path, a project that has turned the unused green spaces on the south end of Sea-Tac into a native pollinator habitat — and in the process, produced a breed of bees better suited for survival in the coming years.
The Common Acre has converted three acres of the former Tyee Golf course at the south end of Sea-Tac Airport to an ecologically healthy pollinator habitat. On these three acres, the Common Acre has worked with the Port of Seattle and other local organisations to plant native plants that are designed to attract bees and supply the longest bloom possible.
The wildflowers provide two benefits to bees: first, long blooming flowers that provide a longer window of access and second, patches of bare ground and plant types for bees to nest in.
Through the project, The Common Acre is aiming to promote hardy bee populations in the region by increasing their genetic diversity and supporting them with adequate habitat.
The Common Acre’s disease-resistant queen bees at Sea-Tac Airport’s apiaries are distributed to local beekeepers.
The Common Acre said: “Our honey bee hives at the airport dramatize parallels to human society: honey bees, for instance, have solved a number of issues around transportation, density, and resource conservation. The number of “flight operations” at the airport pales in comparison to that of a beehive, with its 15,000 foragers per hive, each taking off and landing up to a dozen times per day. Meanwhile, Sea-Tac Airport — one of the nation’s busiest — saw a “mere” 932 flight operations per day in 2014.”
In the long term, the Common Acre envisions pollinator habitat as a standard landscape practice Port-wide and beyond.
The Flight Path program will also be replicated this year at the Boeing factory in Everett.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea