Sugar Land Regional Airport Installs Apiary

The Sugar Land Regional Airport (SLRA) recently installed bee hives on its undeveloped property as part of an effort to make a positive impact on the community and environment.

Bee encounters at the airport have become more common in recent years mainly because airports are ideal bee habitats. A hive was discovered in the wall of an aviation commercial business in 2019 and required the removal and reconstruction of a portion of the hangar to save the bees. In 2020, a hive in transit rested on the Air Traffic Control Tower with more than a couple entering the tower cab. In 2022, after a large swarm was seen hovering on the ramp. It rested on a jet wing and had to be removed by a bee wrangler.

The bees were inside the wing struts, which required aviation maintenance technicians and the wranger to work together to re-hive the drones. The queen had slipped out and left her bees behind.

Following the 2021 February freeze and the loss of landscaping around the terminal building, Director of Aviation Beth Rosenbaum, requested that the replacement hedges consist of pollinators – specifically Callistemon Citrinus or Bottle Brush. During the last year, airport visitors have enjoyed watching the bees forage from red brush to red brush as they collected pollen and nectar.

“Our leadership team strives to be innovative and while reviewing airport initiatives like autonomous mowers, solar panels and electric vehicle chargers, we discovered that other airports around the country are installing apiary’s,” said Rosenbaum. “Their reasons vary, but most look to actively steward the environment while discouraging disruptions to control towers and airplanes. If they have a place away from critical traffic, there should be fewer disruptions.”

Airport staff first contacted the Fort Bend Beekeepers Association about a “potential pollinator partnership.” They were referred to and met with local beekeepers who shared resources and educational materials related to bees.

A plan for the Sugar Land Regional Airport’s first ever apiary was developed, and airport leadership consulted with the city’s legal department and reviewed Federal Aviation Administration regulations specific to Federally Obligated Airports. The hives were delivered to SLRA in April 2023. Each hive will home nearly 40,000 bees and pollinate approximately three to five acres of land.

“This is just one example of how we work to limit our negative and accentuate our positive impacts on our environment,” said Rosenbaum.