In 2021, we worked with 45 beekeepers from across the Midlands to collect 1200 samples of bees, 60 samples of wax and pollen, and 60 samples of honey.
We are currently in the process of analysing the honeybees for particulate matter. Due to the novelty of the work, we have been developing a new methodology for this using a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microscope. This allows us to count particles and use spectral analysis to determine the chemical composition of particulates.
In order to identify the particles, we use a ‘library’ of spectra. We have some libraries at CAWR, but have also been building our own libraries. This will enable us to identify some of the particle types that we would expect to find in hives, but do not have libraries for – for example the materials that beekeepers used in smokers, the materials that hives are made of, and various types of car tyre material.
After analysis with the FTIR microscope, samples are photographed to enable further investigation using ImageJ, a java based image processing software. This will allow us to understand more about the particulates found on the bees.
We are currently testing methods for pollen, wax and honey analysis - we will sub-sample and analyse these from across the experimental design.
Figure 1. a. Honeybee being washed in ultra pure water. b. Research Assistant April watching the filtration process that captures particles for analysis. c. FTIR image analysis to count the number of particles washed from a bees body.