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German Airports Use Bees To Monitor Air Quality

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the smog-honey dept.

Earth 44

The Düsseldorf International Airport and seven other airports in Germany have come up with a unique way of monitoring air quality; they use bees. The airports test the bees' honey twice a year for toxins, and batches that turn up clean are bottled and given away. From the article: "Assessing environmental health using bees as 'terrestrial bioindicators' is a fairly new undertaking, said Jamie Ellis, assistant professor of entomology at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, University of Florida in Gainesville. 'We all believe it can be done, but translating the results into real-world solutions or answers may be a little premature.' Still, similar work with insects to gauge water quality has long been successful."

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Might wanna fix that headline (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32731288)

"Aiports"? What's an aiport?

Re:Might wanna fix that headline (0, Offtopic)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32731602)

It's where you plug in your AI.

Re:Might wanna fix that headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32732758)

By AI, do you mean my schlong?
 
Captcha: utilize!!!!!

Re:Might wanna fix that headline (0, Offtopic)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 4 years ago | (#32732002)

an Aiport is Sony's halfhearted, too-little, too-late, answer to Apple's new iPort, which is itself just a regular old airport except it has only one plane, that only flies one route in one direction at one time each day, and permits passengers to engage in only a certain limited number of approved activities once they arrive. It looks like it will put all the other carriers out of business.

spelling bees (2, Funny)

ad0n (1171681) | more than 4 years ago | (#32731324)

..meh. obviously they aren't using 'spelling' bees at the "aiport" (sorry, couldn't resist.. heh)

Re:spelling bees (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32731764)

..meh. obviously they aren't using 'spelling' bees at the "aiport" (sorry, couldn't resist.. heh)

No need to apologize; that's the best spelling correction pun I've seen in a while.

Re:spelling bees (1)

Rashdot (845549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32734438)

There's another one:

German Airports Use Beer To Monitor Air

Re:spelling bees (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32746958)

Well, why not? Germans use bees to monitor pastry quality at pastry shops in the Black Forest and elsewhere.

honey bees mssing (1)

martin (1336) | more than 4 years ago | (#32731332)

oh so that's where all the bees have gone to....http://viewzone2.com/lostbeesx.html

Canary in a Coal Mine (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32731352)

From the article: "Assessing environmental health using bees as 'terrestrial bioindicators' is a fairly new undertaking, said Jamie Ellis, assistant professor of entomology at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, University of Florida in Gainesville.

Fairly new undertaking? I don't think so.

Re:Canary in a Coal Mine (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733782)

"Fairly new undertaking? I don't think so."

Then there's the Macondo method. Nothing indicates oil contamination quite like a crude-drenched pelican.

Re:Canary in a Coal Mine (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733852)

When did we begin considering canaries to be bees, instead of birds?

I wonder... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32731416)

... how long it'll take animal rights idiots like PETA to threaten to bomb the airports in Germany after they read this. Oh, wait, do they even read? "Cruelty to bees, nuuuuuuuuuuu!!! Think of the horrid cruelty to cute, cuddly, fuzzy bees!!!"

Re:I wonder... (1, Interesting)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733090)

As someone who loves cuddly and non-cuddly animals - some of them even human - and who has worked with PETA people and found them to be a bunch of animal-killing lunatics(*), it saddens me that PETA has completely broken the good image of animal welfare. Not that it's always PETA directly - sometimes they are the extreme that the opposition use to belittle the mainstream. A small proportion of what they do may be considered reasonable: e.g. undercover examination of conditions in testing labs; pushing research for meat production which doesn't require farming a whole animal. But general practice and underlying philosophy mostly causes more harm to the animal (and, by extension, human) welfare movement.

Anyway, social bees are cool. If we're the top mammal, they're the top insect. Yet we've done a good job of fucking up native varieties by over-zealous import of bees who turn out diseased./ not to be so great in another environment (shock!). Let's return to finding out how we can help each other :-).

(*) Their belief being that it's better to kill an animal than let it suffer the torment of symbiosis with humans. It's a really, really, contradictory cult. The exceptions to the insanity are the student volunteers who don't really see how the business (I don't expect them to survive on misguided love alone, but Ingrid is rich) works.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32733636)

As someone who loves cuddly and non-cuddly animals - some of them even human - and who has worked with PETA people and found them to be a bunch of animal-killing lunatics(*), it saddens me that PETA has completely broken the good image of animal welfare. Not that it's always PETA directly - sometimes they are the extreme that the opposition use to belittle the mainstream. A small proportion of what they do may be considered reasonable: e.g. undercover examination of conditions in testing labs; pushing research for meat production which doesn't require farming a whole animal. But general practice and underlying philosophy mostly causes more harm to the animal (and, by extension, human) welfare movement.

Anyway, social bees are cool. If we're the top mammal, they're the top insect. Yet we've done a good job of fucking up native varieties by over-zealous import of bees who turn out diseased./ not to be so great in another environment (shock!). Let's return to finding out how we can help each other :-).

(*) Their belief being that it's better to kill an animal than let it suffer the torment of symbiosis with humans. It's a really, really, contradictory cult. The exceptions to the insanity are the student volunteers who don't really see how the business (I don't expect them to survive on misguided love alone, but Ingrid is rich) works.

As a life-long Vegetarian and long standing Tree-hugger, I'd like to start a group devoted to the Eradication of PETA and GreenPeace.

Both groups may have started with the best of intentions (I'll give them the benefit of the doubt), but at this point they are a bunch of thugs who do more harm than good for their respective causes.

Anyone got a catchy name we can use?

Great (1)

ProdigyPuNk (614140) | more than 4 years ago | (#32731436)

FTFA:

Could bees be modern-day sentinels like the canaries once used as warning signals of toxic gases in coal mines?

Just what we need, there will be swarms of honey bees at airports, in parking lots, and at work, all testing the air quality. Somehow the whole "swarm of bees" thing scares me more than the actual pollution - at least canaries were cute.

Harmless Bees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32732008)

You are more afraid of bees then of the pollution?

I guess some people will only feel safe after every other life-form has been exterminated. Well for those pollution might actual be the solution.

Re:Great (2, Interesting)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32732244)

FTFA:

Could bees be modern-day sentinels like the canaries once used as warning signals of toxic gases in coal mines?

Just what we need, there will be swarms of honey bees at airports, in parking lots, and at work, all testing the air quality. Somehow the whole "swarm of bees" thing scares me more than the actual pollution - at least canaries were cute.

I've got no links or references to give you, so you'll have to forgive me.

The Mall of America, in Minnesota, was using some kind of tiny, stingless bee to pollinate plants indoors. I'd assume something similar could be used for monitoring air quality or whatever else.

Re:Great (1)

ElizabethGreene (1185405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32734430)

"swarms of angry bees" are a fictional movie construct, much like the fabled "Unix system" of Jurassic park.

A swarm of bees is incredibly tame. Here is an example of a package, an artificial swarm, being installed in a hive.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek7dDtZ0lK8 [youtube.com]
Note the "bang the box of bees" step at 4:00.

If you are more than 10 feet from a hive you'll be hard pressed to get stung other than stepping on a forager.

Re:Great (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32738474)

"swarms of angry bees" are a fictional movie construct

Not true! In the 70's they told us that the Africanized honey bees were coming to KILL everyone in North America!

And now we got to Ollie Williams (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32731544)

with the Blackuweather airport forecast. Ollie, what's the air quality like there?

Ollie: [face covered in red welts and puffing up] It's full of bees!

Shocking results (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32731582)

Research has found the air in Düsseldorf contains massive amounts of bee poop contamination.

Researchers are bereft of an explanation for this phenomenon but are going to try a control group of pigeons.
 

corepirate nazi illuminati using US to..... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32731610)

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Pffft! Gifts? (1)

MrTripps (1306469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32731658)

In the US they would sell that honey in the airport at a 6000% markup.

Re:Pffft! Gifts? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#32732072)

Markup? Are these bees wholesalers now? Cut out the middleman - buy directly from the bees!

Surely this isn't so novel (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32731758)

"Assessing environmental health using bees as 'terrestrial bioindicators' is a fairly new undertaking, said Jamie Ellis, assistant professor of entomology at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory...
Surely this type of approach has probably been used long before, by farmers, or for that matter, an expert honey producer would have been aware of this, just by subtle changes in honey taste.

Many of our "green" approaches are really old methods that were abandoned when the western world was industrialized. Take windmills for example. We could learn a lot from new applications of old methods.

Fast response time... (1)

gsgriffin (1195771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32732226)

with this being checked twice a year, I think they'll notice people getting sick months before the bees give any clues. I'd love to know the exact toxins that they are expecting to find. I didn't think that bees were huge consumers of air. If they want to speed up the process, simply wipe down the jet engines from landing planes and get a sample bees spattered all around the intake.

Re:Fast response time... (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733066)

This was my thought. I'm all for creative and interesting solutions to problems, but I'd have to conclude that they're not actually that concerned about the air quality around the airport. I work in a place where we monitor the air from various sensors placed throughout the facility, all the time, and this is at a small commercial establishment where we operate relatively tiny, gas-powered engines.

Kudos to them for the fun little trick to acquire a minuscule amount of data though.

Re:Fast response time... (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733124)

I take it back, it's a fun little trick to acquire a minuscule amount of data, but it sounds like they're still using the appropriate technology to monitor the air quality...

Biomonitoring, or the use of living organisms to test environmental health, does not replace traditional monitoring, said Martin Bunkowski, an environmental engineer for the Association of German Airports. But "it's a very clear message for the public because it is easy to understand," he added.

Lichen biomonitoring (2, Interesting)

ouzel (655571) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733022)

This is a cool idea. Another approach is to use lichens [sciencedaily.com] , although there might not be enough trees or other suitable substrates nearby.

Bees on a plane (0)

AndreR (814444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733032)

Enough is ENOUGH! I have had it with these motherfuckin' bees on this motherfuckin' plane!

-- Neville Flynn

I can't have been the only one that wondered ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32733442)

how those Germans would use beer to monitor air quality ?

Watch this being done in US airports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32733644)

.. and the lawsuits when someone is stung and suffers emotional distress (also because of a ruined holiday causing additional stress) due to the airport's 'faulty biological equipment'...

Absinthe (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 4 years ago | (#32733824)

I ate all your bees.
/Lonely Soldier

Re:Absinthe (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32741186)

All your bees are belong to us.

Quality is subjective, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32734712)

I'd say it's in the eye of the bee holder.

Air quality in the terminal? Smoking! (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32735542)

The last time I was in Germany, a few years ago, smoking was allowed everywhere, including the terminal of the Frankfurt airport.

Thus, it would be ironic to be measuring the air quality around the airport, while the actual airport customers are being gassed in the terminal.

Doing some Googling, it seems like Germany is smartening up and imposing smoking bans.

Re:Air quality in the terminal? Smoking! (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#32737464)

They are a few years behind America in this aspect, but have been recently clamping down on it.

Rauchenverboten have been coming to many places in the very recent past.

Re:Air quality in the terminal? Smoking! (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32739024)

I was in Frankfurt airport two years ago, and no one was smoking inside at that time. I would have noticed. I hate cigarette smoke smell.

Honeybee stuff (4, Interesting)

bmajik (96670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32736776)

My wife and I are hobbyist bee keepers. A few comments

1) bees will fly several miles from their hive when looking for nectar and pollen. Of course i wouldn't expect a pefectly symmetrical distribution of bee activity in all 360 degrees and at all distances away from the hive. So siting the hive is a relevant concern

2) the collection of nectar/etc is non-uniform with the passage of time. the amount of material collected depends on things like colony size [which in turn depends on the amount of nectar collected.. yay for cross-talk in experimental variables :)]. The bees are obviously collecting much more when something nearby is blooming. However, bees mostly stay home in cold weather or rainy conditions. So the amount of foraging bees do as a function of calendar date depends on the bloom and the weather conditions.

One could say that the experiment ignores this by only taking two measurements... .. .which brings me to my final point: a hive is usually tended to considerably more often than twice in a season. the bees can put away a tremendous amount of honey in a short time if the colony is at full strength and there is a strong nearby bloom. if the hive becomes too crowded the colony will split and swarm. If the hive is made so large so as to be empty, it will be difficult to tell when a certain cell of comb was filled.

There are other factors: the creation of honey involves bees filling a cell with nectar and then vibrating their wings over that cell to manage the heat and evaporation. Any number of factors might affect the evaporative rate of the honey, like the local temperature or the rate at which a given cell was filled.

Certainly, some of the pollutants they are looking for would be affected by the evaporative rate of the water in the nectar, and without frequent monitoring and much higher precision data logging, i don't really know how you'd measure that.

So in summary: there is no guarantee that bees will go a certain place, much less at a certain time, nor is there any uniformity in how much work they do, nor in how they put up the nectar, nor in how they create the honey.

If the experiment is "i wonder how many airborne pollutants show up in a beehive after 1 season", then fine. But i wouldn't use it to measure anything else. I wouldn't even compare it to other beehives to see if airports create more pollution -- the activity of a given colony is simply not uniform.

Ob Simpsons.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32739862)

Beekeeper 1: Well, sure is quiet in here today.

Beekeeper 2: Yes, a little too quiet, if you know what I mean.

Beekeeper 1: Hmm...I'm afraid I don't.

Beekeeper 2: You see, bees usually make a lot of noise. No noise -- suggests no bees!

Beekeeper 1: Oh, I understand now. Oh look, there goes one now.

Beekeeper 2: To the Beemobile!

Beekeeper 1: You mean your Chevy?

Beekeeper 2: Yes.

The beekeepers track their bees down to Homer's sugar pile.

Beekeeper 1: Well, very clever, Simpson, luring our bees to your sugar pile and selling them back to us at an inflated price.

Homer: Bees are on the what now?

Beekeeper 2: Simpson, you diabolical...we're willing to pay you $2000 for the swarm. [starts counting money]

Homer: Deal! [thunder crashes, rain starts]

Beekeeper 1: Oh, wait a minute. The bees are leaving.

Homer: No! My sugar is melting. Melting! Oh, what a world.

My guess is (1)

nopainogain (1091795) | more than 3 years ago | (#32760708)

the canaries had a better lawyer than the bees.
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