60 million honey bees recently made their way to Ras Al Khaimah International Airport all the way from Cairo aboard an Airbus A300-600 Egyptair Cargo freighter.
Destined for farms across the UAE, the bees were part of a re-stocking exercise which takes place on a regular basis and were delivered to Najeh Honey and Bees Trading.
Given the sensitive nature of handling honey bees, Mohammed Qazi, CEO, RAK International Airport explained what went behind handling such a special consignment. “A lot of time has been spent in planning the operations. Honey bees are delicate insects and transporting them by air over distance is a task that has to be run like clockwork. If anything goes wrong in the process, then it’s highly likely that the bees will perish,” he said.
Timing and temperature plays a critical role when it comes to dealing with honey bees. “In terms of overall timing, the bees can only be in transit for about six hours before they begin to deteriorate. In addition, they have to be kept cool. In the aircraft, the temperature control is set to -15 degrees Celsius inorder to counteract the heat that the mass of bees generates. The net result is a temperature of about 15 degrees. On arrival, special clearance arrangements have to be made so that the bees can be transported almost directly from the aircraft to the waiting trucks from their destination farms,” Qazi added.
The arrival of huge number of honeybees reflects the growing honey production industry in the UAE, which annually exports over 1,800 tonnes of honey. Aiming to become a hub for specialized cargo such as live honeybees, RAK International Airport is upping its infrastructure to accommodate such special needs. “From the second the aircraft hits the chocks, a series of simultaneous activities take place, and RAK Airport’s infrastructure is now tailored to accommodate. We have dedicated an area which is remote, as bees can be dangerous to humans and we want to avoid accidents. We also have spent time with beekeepers to learn how to handle bees. We have established facilities for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Customs and airport operations to streamline the process. We will also have shaded/cool areas where the bees can be kept while being examined by the Ministry before releasing them to the consignee. Finally, we have rooms for the consignees to wait and complete the Ministry processes,” Qazi revealed.