Honeybees as active samplers for microplastics

Honeybees as active samplers for microplastics

Researchers have been working in collaboration with the Danish association of beekeepers (Danmarks Biavlerforening) to explore whether worker honeybees take microplastics from their foraging areas.

The researchers collected honeybees from 19 apiaries in the centre of Copenhagen and nearby semi-urban and rural areas. They found the presence of microplastics in all locations. The highest microplastic load was associated with the urban apiaries located in Copenhagen. However, honeybees from suburban and rural areas also had a considerable number of microplastics on their bodies. The researchers suggest this could bebecause the foraging range of honeybees included urban settlements and because microplastics are dispersed by the wind.

Analysis with Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (micro-FTIR) confirmed the presence of thirteen synthetic polymers, most frequently polyester followed by polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride.

Read the paper:
Edo, C., Fernández-Alba, A.R., Vejsnæs, F., van der Steen, J.J.M., Fernández-Piñas, F., Rosal, R. (2021) Honeybees as active samplers for microplastics. Science of The Total Environment, 767. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144481

Banner image:
A lone honeybee (Apis mellifera) sits atop a hive.
Copyright: Tanner Smida. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee#/media/File:The_Lone_Pollinator.jpg