Beehives were also installed at Montréal-Trudeau airport in 2015, which came after a similar project at Montréal-Mirabel in 2014. Each airport is now home to about 300,000 honey bees. Some of the honey produced is sold to employees to raise funds for a local non-profit that helps low-income families and individuals; the balance is donated to local food banks.

At O’Hare, where the bee program is in its seventh season, there are currently 30 to 40 hives (down from a high of 75), and about one million bees on duty.

Operated by Sweet Beginnings, which gives training and jobs to ex-convicts and others who may have significant barriers to finding jobs, the apiary produces about 35 pounds of honey per hive.

Under the ‘beelove‘ brand, products made with the O’Hare honey—including lip balm, skincare creams, soaps and, of course jars of raw national honey—are sold in Hudson News stores at O’Hare and in the Farmers Market kiosk in Terminal 3. Some O’Hare restaurants, including Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, also use the O’Hare honey in meals.

Like the symbiotic relationship between bees and flowers, both the airport and the non-profit get something valuable from the deal.

Seattle’s Common Acre is collecting scientific data from the hives “crucial to understanding and supporting pollinators,” said group founder Bob Redmond, who is selling the honey to help offset costs. Among other benefits, the bees help the airport keep large birds away from airplanes, by supporting the growth of dense vegetation on a former golf course area.

—Harriet Baskas is the author of seven books, including “Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You,” and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at
@hbaskas
. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.

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