|MadSci Network: Environment/Ecology|
To best answer this question, I have consulted with an expert at Agriculture Canada. This is from Jerry Bromenshenk: "Bees forage a wide area and bring back pollutants in or on their own bodies, and in or on the substances that they collect (nectar - for honey, pollen - to feed the brood, resin - to make bee glue or propolis). In doing this, bees are collecting materials from the air, water, soil, and plants as well as any pollutants that happen to be present. Because all of the bees return home to the hive, they also bring the pollutants back to the hive. We can then sample at the hive and get an idea of what contaminants, if any, occur in the area surrounding the hive. In addition, bees may be harmed by these pollutants. Therefore, we can also observe the colony and determine whether it is in good health. With respect to pollen, the pollen grains are slightly sticky. Dust particles settle out of the air onto the pollen. These dust particles may contain contaminants. Also, the plant may take up pollutants in the soil and transfer them through the stem into the flower and eventually into the pollen. Pollutants in pollen usually indicate that the contaminants occur in air or soil - mainly because most plants that have showy flowers grow on the land, not in water. But, there are exceptions. For pollution monitoring, the bee itself gets "dirty". The good news is that pollutants rarely end up in the honey. Jerry" c/o Neala MacDonald
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Environment/Ecology.
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