Coventry University and the British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) will work with beekeepers to understand the impact that air pollution has on honey bee health.
Honey bees deliver more than a third of the pollination demands for our crops, however, they face many increasing environmental threats, including habitat loss, alien species and invasions.
According to the researchers, of these issues, the least understood is air pollution.
Therefore, through the new ‘Thriving Hive’ Hub, the researchers will map air particulate levels across the Midlands. Sixty beekeepers across Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire with two or more hives will be issued with sensors to be placed in their apiaries.
The sensors measure the particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution, temperature and humidity in real-time, shown as a live feed on the project website.
The researchers will then work closely with the beekeepers to test whether this pollution can be detected in bee bodies and hive products. This information will then be correlated with disease, parasite loads and productivity.
Dr Barbara Smith, associate professor at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), said: ‘The little research that has been done suggests that particulates in air pollution could impact bee immune and circulatory systems but not much is known about the physiological effects.
‘In our first project, we will determine the scale of the potential problem. We will then move on to look at the health outcomes for bees. Key to this project is working in partnership with beekeepers, who know their bees better than anyone else.’
A spokesperson from the British Beekeepers Association added: ‘We are delighted to be able to fund this interesting project.
‘This is an area on which little research has been carried out to date and given the increase in pollution in our environment, this pilot study might give us valuable insight as to the extent of the problem.’
In related news, Air Quality News explores the worrying link between certain air pollutants and our declining natural environment.
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