Thriving Hive logo

Beekeepers and scientists working together to help hives thrive

Bee Illustration

Mapping particulate presence in apiculture across the UK

Honeybees are facing many threats including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation; non-native species and diseases; pollution, including pesticides; and climate change. Air pollution could also have an impact but it has been the subject of little research. This project aims to understand the effect of air pollution and microplastics on honeybee health and productivity. Our first step is to map one component of air pollution, particulate matter (PM), and to see if particulate matter makes its way into the hives, the bee’s bodies and their hive products and investigate whether that correlates with disease, parasite loads and productivity. As the project progresses we will be introducing the opportunity for bee keepers across the UK to send us hive samples to look at microplastics.

Air pollution contains many contaminants, for this study we have chosen to investigate small particulates, or particulate matter (PM), which is a mixture of solids and liquid droplets floating in the air. Some particles are released directly from a specific source, while others form in complicated chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Bee image
Bee image

We will focus on particles less than or equal to 10 microns (PM10s) and 2.5 microns or smaller (PM2.5s). PM10s are approximately the size of pollen grains and are comprised of dust and mineral particles, whilst PM2.5s are very fine and can only be seen with an electron microscope. They come from types of combustion, including cars, power plants, burning, and some industrial processes.

We are looking for 60 beekeepers to take part in the project. Beekeepers will each be issued with an air pollution sensor to record local air pollution. Working together, we will collect small samples of bees and hive products to discover whether the air pollution is present in the hives. See ‘How it works’ to take part.

If we find that the particulates are present, we will then carry out 1) a laboratory study to investigate the physiological effects of particulate pollution on honey bees using molecular and neuroethological techniques 2) a field study to investigate whether the effects recorded in laboratory conditions are replicated in field conditions.

Latest from our blog

Send your stories

Send your stories

We would love to post your stories about beekeeping here.

Read more
Air pollution effects Apis dorsata (rock bee) in India

Air pollution effects Apis dorsata (rock bee) in India

Bangalore is one of the most polluted cities in India and now researchers are looking at whether air pollution could be affecting honey bee population

Read more
Welcome to our blog

Welcome to our blog

A warm welcome to the launch of Thriving Hive! We are delighted to begin this exciting initiative linking beekeepers and scientists to support healthy

Read more