Assessing heavy metal pollution by biomonitoring honeybee nectar in Córdoba (Spain)

  • Miriam GutiérrezEmail author
  • Rafael Molero
  • Miquel Gaju
  • Josef van der Steen
  • Claudio Porrini
  • José Antonio Ruiz
Research Article


Nectar of honeybee colonies has been used in order to identify heavy metals and establish the benefit of this type of studies as a tool for environmental management. For these goals, samples of nectar were obtained from Apis mellifera hives placed in the city of Córdoba (Spain) and its surroundings. Five stations (each with two hives) were selected and samples were collected from May to July of 2007, 2009 and 2010. Concentrations of Pb, Cr, Ni and Cd in nectar were determined by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Substantial spatial and temporal differences were detected and compared with the values found in bee bodies in a previously published study based on samples obtained simultaneously with those presented in this work. Upper reference thresholds established for this investigation were surpassed frequently by the measures obtained, being Cr (21.43% of samples), stations S3 (22.22%) and S4 (11.12%) year 2009 (22.22%) and the month of July (23.68%) the metal, the locations and the periods that exceeded more times these references. Regarding the Cd, which was studied only in 2010, 33.33% of the nectar samples exceeded the upper reference thresholds. Comparing the biomonitoring of bee bodies and nectar, some coincidences were found, although they showed different results for highest worrisome values of metal, station and year. This suggests that both methods can give complementary information in the surveillance systems of atmospheric pollution.


Biomonitoring Heavy metals Honeybee Nectar Pollution Bioindication 



We thank José Carlos Casas, from Statistics Department of University of Córdoba, for his advice in the statistical interpretation of results.

Funding information

This study has been supported by the Córdoba City Council through the “Evaluation of urban pollution in the municipality of Córdoba using colonies of Apis mellifera as environmental bioindicators” project (Ref: 2006/000228) and by the Spanish Ministry of Environment through the project entitled “Network of biomonitoring stations using colonies of Apis mellifera for real time assessment of urban pollution in the city of Córdoba” (PC 199-003, 2008–2011).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Apoidea, Spin-off from University of CórdobaCórdobaSpain
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CórdobaCórdobaSpain
  3. 3.Plant Research InternationalWageningenNetherlands
  4. 4.Department of Agricultural and Food SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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