Etihad Airways has big plans for hens, bees and pickles

Now that I know about the hens, the bees and the pickles, I’m kicking myself for missing a recent opportunity to fly to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE.

The airline has 200 free-range hens on duty at Abu Dhabi Organics Farms laying eggs that are used in some dishes prepared by on-board chefs for first class passengers.

Several beehives on the farm are also producing honey for airline meals and the airline has promised its own signature line of pickles made from organic paprika, chili, onion, capsicum and dates.

Souvenir Sunday: the buzz at Sacramento Int’l Airport

There’s still quite a bit of a buzz around the new Central Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport, so my picks for Souvenir Sunday this week are a few items I spotted during my tour of the airport.

In addition to the cute bee above, I spotted this sweet bee-themed mug at the Sacramento Bee news stand in the baggage claim area.

And, over in the ‘old’ Terminal A, I found this classic:

For photos and a report of my tour of the airport, please see my previous posts here and here, and my At the Airport column about Sacramento International Airport on

Please join me in celebrating Souvenir Sunday: if you are poking around an airport shop and find something fun, inexpensive (about $10) and “of” the city or region, please snap a photo and send it along. If your souvenir is featured on Souvenir Sunday here at, I’ll send you a fun travel souvenir.

Lost luggage and 60,000 bees in Victoria, B.C.

If you happened to be strolling by the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. last Friday night around 11 p.m. you may have noticed two people searching through the bushes with a flashlight.

That would have been me and a staff member of the hotel. We were out there looking for my luggage.

I’d arrived at the hotel that morning in time to meet John Gibeau, a bee keeper who’d just harvested 600 pounds of honey from a bank of beehives he’d installed on the hotel lawn a few months earlier.

Gibeau offered to give me a tour of the hives and I (bravely? foolishly?) followed him into the beehive corral where 60,000 bees were, well, already busy as bees making more honey.

Gibeau took apart one of the hives to show me and the small crowd that had gathered where the queen bee could be found. He let us taste honey straight from a hive, put what I think he said was an edible-but-not-tasty drone bee in his mouth (but didn’t eat it), explained why the bees kept bumping into me (I was in their flight path), patiently answered some more questions and then headed off with that pickup full of honey.

I checked into my room and rushed off to visit some attractions. And it wasn’t until 10:30 that night, as I began getting ready for bed, that I realized that I only had my computer bag with me. My other bag, stuffed with a week’s worth of clothing, was missing.

My only explanation was that I’d set all my stuff down by the bees and in all the excitement forgotten to pick it all up. And when the front desk said no, there were no unclaimed bags in lost and found, someone offered to go out there with a flashlight and look around.

We didn’t find anything. I went to bed thoroughly embarrassed, a bit perplexed and resigned to having to buy fresh and no doubt expensive outfits in the tourist district before continuing on my adventure.

It was a mystery and an inconvenience. But not a trip-ruining disaster. Because, somehow, my bag showed up the next morning.

No one can explain where my clothes spent the night, but I’m betting those bees are having a good laugh.

My hotel stay was hosted by the Fairmont Empress. My bag – a much used satchel I bought a dozen years ago at the Calgary Airport – still isn’t talking.

At German airports, bees are the canaries

Girl in bee costume. Field Museum

(Courtesy Field Museum, via Flickr Creative Commons)

According to a story by Tanya Mohn in the New York Times, Düsseldorf International Airport and seven other airports in Germany are using bees as ‘biodetectives.’  Clues about the air quality around each airport show up in the honey.

“The first batch of this year’s harvested honey from some 200,000 bees was tested in early June…and indicated that toxins were far below official limits…”

That’s good news of course, but here’s my favorite part of the story:

Beekeepers from the local neighborhood club keep the bees. The honey, “Düsseldorf Natural,” is bottled and given away as gifts.

The article describes what sort of substances the honey was tested for (“certain hydrocarbons and heavy metals”) and offers intriguing information about the pros, cons and reliability of biomonitoring – the use of living organisms to test environmental health:

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.

You can read the full article here. And you can be sure I’m busy as one of those airport bees trying to figure out how to get some of that Dusseldorf honey for Souvenir Sunday.