Think regionally, act locally: metals in honeybee workers in the Netherlands (surveillance study 2008)

J.J.M. van der Steen*, B. Cornelissen, T. Blacquière, J.E.M.L. Pijnenburg, M. Severijnen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


In June 2008, a surveillance study for metals in honeybees was performed in the Netherlands. Randomly, 150 apiaries were selected. In each apiary, five colonies were sampled. Per apiary, the hive samples were pooled. The apiary sample was analysed for Al, As, Ba, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Li, Mn, Mo, Ni, Sb, Se, Sn, Sr, Ti, V and Zn. All metals could be detected in all apiaries. As, Li, Sb, Sn and V were detected in part of the apiaries. The overall picture showed a regional pattern. In apiaries in the east of the Netherlands, Al, Ba, Cr, Mn, Mo, Ni, Se and Ti are found in higher concentrations compared to the west. In-region variation was demonstrated, indicating local effects. The vicinity of the apiaries was mapped afterwards and characterised as land uses of >50 % agricultural area, >50 % wooded area, >50 % urban area and mixed land use within a circle of 28 km2 around the apiary. The results indicated that in apiaries located in >50 % wooded areas, significantly higher concentrations of Al, Ba, Cd, Cr, Cu, Li, Mn, Mo, Ni, Sb, Sr, Ti and Zn were found compared to agricultural, urban and mixed land use areas. We conclude that (1) the ratio between metal concentrations varies per region, demonstrating spatial differences, and (2) there is in-region local variation per metal. The results indicate the impact of land use on metal concentrations in honeybees. For qualitative bioindication studies, regional, local and land use effects should be taken into account.

Original languageEnglish
Article number463
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Apis mellifera
  • Bioindication
  • Heavy metals
  • Honeybee
  • Land use
  • Region
  • Surveillance study


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