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Metal contaminant accumulation in the hive: Consequences for whole‐colony health and brood production in the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.)

Hladun, Kristen R., Di, Ning, Liu, Tong‐Xian, Trumble, John T.
Environmental toxicology and chemistry 2016 v.35 no.2 pp. 322-329
Apis mellifera, apiaries, cadmium, cages, copper, diet, forage, honey, honey bees, human population, lead, patties, pollen, pollinators, pollution, pupae, risk, selenium, sugars, syrups, toxic substances, toxicity
Metal pollution has been increasing rapidly over the past century, and at the same time, the human population has continued to rise and produce contaminants that may negatively impact pollinators. Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) forage over large areas and can collect contaminants from the environment. The primary objective of the present study was to determine whether the metal contaminants cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), and selenium (Se) can have a detrimental effect on whole‐colony health in the managed pollinator A. mellifera. The authors isolated small nucleus colonies under large cages and fed them an exclusive diet of sugar syrup and pollen patty spiked with Cd, Cu, Pb, and Se or a control (no additional metal). Treatment levels were based on concentrations in honey and pollen from contaminated hives around the world. They measured whole‐colony health including wax, honey, and brood production; colony weight; brood survival; and metal accumulation in various life stages. Colonies treated with Cd or Cu contained more dead pupae within capped cells compared with control, and Se‐treated colonies had lower total worker weights compared to control. Lead had a minimal effect on colony performance, although many members of the hive accumulated significant quantities of the metal. By examining the honey bee as a social organism through whole‐colony assessments of toxicity, the authors found that the distribution of toxicants throughout the colony varied from metal to metal, some caste members were more susceptible to certain metals, and the colony's ability to grow over time may have been reduced in the presence of Se. Apiaries residing near metal‐contaminated areas may be at risk and can suffer changes in colony dynamics and survival. Environ Toxicol Chem 2016;35:322–329. © 2015 SETAC