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.
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.
We are looking for beekeepers to take part in the project. We will make sure there is lots of support available by website, email, phone and personal visits – as much or as little as you require. There will also be a blog with project progress, news and updates on other research going on into the health of apiaries.
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