Honey Bees as Bioindicators of Environmental Pollution
Principal Investigator: Dr. Dominique Weis, Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences, UBC
Partner Organization: Sarah Common, Hives for Humanity, Vancouver
Urban farming, including community gardens and hobby beekeeping, is quickly gaining popularity as cities densify and demand grows for fresh, local and sustainable food. However, along with this urbanization comes increasing pollution from cars, tankers, and construction. This study will determine the levels of potentially harmful metals (e.g. lead, arsenic) in honey from beehives throughout the Lower Mainland and through time. In addition to establishing the health safety of the honey, this project will investigate the power of the honey bee as a key bioindicator species to trace the sources and impacts of environmental pollution. Because bees forage in a relatively small area (a three-kilometer radius), each hive represents a sample of its local environment. This study will develop a new and innovative geochemical tool and will constitute a case study that can be expanded to other cities worldwide, promoting the use of hives, bees and honey to monitor urban environmental conditions.