CANTON, Ohio (WJW) – With 500 bee colonies on his seven farm properties, 350 of them in Hartville alone, Mike White of Hartville Honey Bee Farm is always searching for ways to expand the threatened honey bee population.

White breeds, sells and raises honeybees. This time of year, he is very busy splitting hives down into what is called a nucleus colony of bees.

“We sell a box of bees that has five frames and a queen, and we sell that to a lot of customers who want bees in their backyard,” said White.

He says their numbers have been threatened by, among other things, a varroa mite.

But the bees he raises have been bred to identify and help eliminate the mite in their hives, and then breed with wild bees to pass along that trait.

But there’s another problem.

“There’s not enough forage around here (his Hartville property) for all of my bees so I constantly look for other areas where I can put my hives where they can get more food on their own,” said White.

So when he was contacted by Adam Dietry of the Akron-Canton Airport about putting bee colonies on airport property, it seemed like something that benefits everyone involved.

Dietry, who works with the airport’s environmental services, says he first came up with the idea of putting bees in his backyard.

He then started researching putting bees on airport property and found that there are numerous airports around the world already creating airport apiaries.

And with a vast expanse of open land, it just seems to make sense.

“We have all the land here we have all the room they need here we have water sources we have different wetland areas and all the food and water they need so why not make the space useable and help the bee population,” said Dietry.

The airport asked White to put 20 colonies on their property, each of which typically has 60-80 thousand bees.

The colonies are in three different areas on airport property but outside of the restricted area.

“Yeah, it’s just basically a field that wasn’t being used so it was a perfect place for it,” said Scott Hostler, the airport’s Environmental Services Manager.

And although there are larger, louder aircraft making frequent takeoffs and landings nearby, they will not bother the bees.

The hope is to see the bee populations expand and grow and eventually produce enough honey that they can package it and sell it in the airport gift shop.

Dietry says another thing that can be measured is the carbon footprint of the airport on its surrounding environment.

Dietry says honey from airport colonies can be tested and has been cleaner than some of the other honey that is available on store shelves.

But more importantly, it is intended to do something to help boost the threatened bee population, which is extremely important for agriculture among other things.

“They pollinate everything you eat, from tomatoes and vegetables to just about everything you eat they pollinate, even the trees,” said White.

“The honeybee population is in trouble and they need as much help as we can get and we have the perfect opportunity to be able to help them,” said Dietary.

“It’s an easy thing, we don’t do too much to what you see behind us, and it can make a big difference,” said Anthony Gentile, who also works in the airport’s environmental services department.