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Honey bees

At Malmö Airport there is a project in which bees are used to evaluate the quality of the air around the airport. The honey bee is regarded as a reliable indicator of chemical pollutants in the environment. The bee's products, such as honey and beeswax, store pollutants that can be subsequently analysed in the laboratory.

The project started in 2007 with the aim of identifying and evaluating a method whereby bees and their products could be used as indicators of air quality. In 2009 an initial series of analyses was conducted on honey and beeswax from three different locations. One set of samples was taken from Malmö Airport and two reference samples were taken from Staffanstorp and Skoghem near Gårdstånga. The aim of the analyses was to see if there are any differences between the samples taken from Malmö Airport and the reference sites, and also to compare the results from a consumer perspective.

Substances such as heavy metals, volatile organic hydrocarbons (BTEX) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were analysed. Emissions of these substances can occur during combustion of aviation or vehicle fuels and in the various day-to-day operations at Malmö Airport (such as when handling fuel, resurfacing roads and runways, handling solvents or in the cleaning and cooling systems).

Analysis of the BTEX, HMF and heavy metal results showed that from the consumer perspective, all the figures were below the set EU limits. In many cases, the concentration was so low that the substances could not even be detected. When the samples from Malmö Airport and the two reference sites were compared, the results indicated some cases of higher concentration at the airport while other concentrations were lower. Of the analyses conducted thus far on the honey and beeswax, it is not possible to draw any conclusions as to whether and if so in what way Malmö Airport affects local air quality.

Since bees range over a large area, often a radius of up to four kilometres, bee and honey samples are regarded as accurately representative of local environmental conditions.