Bees Can Help Cities by Monitoring Pollution

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Bee honey can pinpoint the sources of pollution in cities. So say researchers at the University of British Columbia, according to a research article, “Honey as a Biomonitor for a Changing World,” published in the March 2019 issue of the scientific journal Nature Sustainability.

For four years, researchers collected honey from six hives across Vancouver and tested it for trace levels of lead, zinc, copper and other elements, to determine whether they were man-made and to help locate the elements’ sources. The trace amounts also provided a baseline on which to monitor local environmental changes. The work was a partnership between the university’s Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research and the non-profit Hives for Humanity, which promotes urban beekeeping.

The research is relevant worldwide, as the program could be replicated in countless cities with climates conducive to beekeeping. Besides shaping public health and environmental policies, it would help bees by encouraging more cities to raise and protect them. The bees in turn would continue to pollinate the countless plants necessary to human survival.

Sadly, the Nature Sustainability report, like the vast majority of scientific reports published around the world every year, appears to have received no corporate media coverage. In an extensive search for additional news coverage, the only additional reporting found on this story was from the Environmental News Network, which reposted a portion of the UBC News report and linked to the University’s press release about the findings.

Obviously, many published scientific reports are inconclusive or narrow in their findings, would be difficult to translate to a lay audience, or seemingly are irrelevant to daily life. None of this is true of the Vancouver bee research. Its obscurity is a reminder that in a science-denying and science-ignorant age, the ongoing progress of scientific discovery is one of the most censored news stories of all.

Source:  “Honey Bees Can Help Monitor Pollution in Cities,” UBC News (University of British Columbia), March 11, 2019,

Student Researcher: Leah R. Perrin (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)