Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 1–9

Investigation of the use of honey bees and honey bee products to assess heavy metals contamination


  • L. Leita
    • Dipartimento di Produzione Vegetale e Tecnologie Agrarie
  • G. Muhlbachova
    • Research Institute of Crop Production
  • S. Cesco
    • Dipartimento di Produzione Vegetale e Tecnologie Agrarie
  • R. Barbattini
    • Dipartimento di Biologia Applicata alla Difesa delle Piante
  • C. Mondini
    • section of GoriziaIstituto Sperimentale per la Nutrizione delle Piante

DOI: 10.1007/BF00399566

Cite this article as:
Leita, L., Muhlbachova, G., Cesco, S. et al. Environ Monit Assess (1996) 43: 1. doi:10.1007/BF00399566


Experiment was carried out using 12 colonies of honey bees bred in hives located near an extraurban crossroad. We analyzed the Pb, Cd and Zn deposited on the bee's surfaces and the heavy metal accumulation in the foragers, dead bees, honey products and some environmental markers during nine weeks of the experiment. Results showed a large amount of Zn and Cd on the bee's surface as a consequence of atmospheric fallout, whereas Pb seems to be either water-extractable and/or likely accumulated in the body of the insect. Dead bees expelled from the hives displayed a progressive accumulation of all heavy metals during the experimental period. Royal jelly and honey contained large amounts of heavy metals. In particular, we found a linear relationship between Cd in the honey and that found in flowers of Trifolium pratense L. Results obtained suggested that honey bee products and the examined environmental markers may be considered useful parameters to assess the presence of environmental contaminants, whereas the measurements of heavy metals in the dead bees may be considered a suitable tool also to verify a possible dynamics of accumulation of pollutants.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996