Honey bees and their products as indicators of environmental pollution: A review

D. Salkova*, M. Panayotova-Pencheva

Department of Experimental Parasitology, Institute of Experimental Morphology, Pathology and Anthropology with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Acad. G. Bonchev 25, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria

(Manuscript received 18 January 2016; accepted for publication 8 August 2016)

Abstract. In the present work a literature review of the experiments that explore the use of honey bees and their products as bioindicator of environmental pollution is presented. The greatest number of studies has been carried out on contaminations with heavy metals, followed by pesticides, radionuclides and other substances. Pb, Cd and Zn have been the most looked for metals. Zn and Cd have been mainly deposited on the surface of the bee body while Ni, Cd, Pb and Co have been released with the excrements most often. In all cases of pesticide implementation certain amounts of them have been always accumulated in the bees and their products. According to the researchers, pollutants accumulate in the bees and their products at different extents. Heavy metals and pesticides have been established in the bodies of honey bees in larger quantities in comparison to honey. Most of the authors reported that bee honey is a suitable tool for monitoring pollution with heavy metals and pesticides but the opposite assertions have been also expressed. A suggestion for the presence of a bio-barrier function of the bee organism against contaminators has been forwarded. It has been established that pollen is the most suitable indicator for radioactive pollution. As a whole, the present review shows that bees and their products are suitable models for bio-monitoring of the environmental pollution of different nature.