Due to features that make them outstanding environmental bioindicator, colonies of Apis mellifera are being used to study environmental pollution. The primary objective of this research was to use honeybee colonies to identify heavy metals and determine their utility for environmental management. Five stations each with two A. mellifera hives were strategically located in urban, industrial, agricultural and forested areas within the municipality of Córdoba (Spain), and foraging bees were collected from April to December in 2007, 2009 and 2010 to analyse spatial and temporal variation in Pb, Cr, Ni and Cd pollution. Metal concentrations, in milligram per kilogram of honeybee, were determined by inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry and graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Significant differences in concentrations were found among the various locations and periods. The highest number of values exceeding the upper reference thresholds proposed for this study (Pb, 0.7 mg/kg; Cr, 0.12 mg/kg; Ni, 0.3 mg/kg; and Cd, 0.1 mg/kg) was observed for Pb and Cr (6.25% respectively), station S4 (13.22%), year 2007 (20.83%) and in months of May and July (11.90% each). Regarding the Cd, which was analysed only in 2010, the highest number of values exceeding the upper reference thresholds was 40%. Biomonitoring with colonies of A. mellifera could contribute to improved surveillance and control systems for atmospheric pollution by integrating qualitative and quantitative assessments, thus facilitating prevention and readiness in the event of environmental crises.
- Heavy metals