Honeybees – Bioindicators for Environmental Quality

Trakia University, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Animal Breeding – Non-ruminants and Other Animals,BG – 6000 Stara Zagora, Bulgaria


ZHELYAZKOVA, I., 2012. Honeybees – bioindicators for environmental quality. Bulg. J. Agric. Sci., 18:435-442

The objective of the study is to use honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) as bioindicators for environmental status in the region of Sarnena Sredna gora, county of Stara Zagora. The study comprises six villages (Yagoda, Borilovo, Novo selo, Sulitsa, Ostra mogila, Kanchevo), located on the territory of Sarnena Sredna gora close to the military range of Zmeyovo. In each village, bee samples were taken and 56 samples of whole bees and fecal mass were prepared during the bee season of 2010. The content of copper, zinc, lead, cadmium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and iron was traced in the bee body and in excrements. The analysis was carried out in the scientific laboratory of Trakia University – Stara Zagora through atomic absorption spectrometry according to ISO 11047. The results have been statistically processed (Excel software). Maximum or relatively high values for content of the studied heavy metals and metalloids in the body and fecal mass of bees from the villages included in the study have been found, which makes it possible to comment a possible anthropogenic effect in the area of Sarnena Sredna gora, Zmeyovo military range. Higher content of the studied heavy metals and metalloids in excrements compared to the body of bees has been found, which accounts for the biobarrier function of the bee organism. The elements nickel, cadmium, cobalt and lead are accumulated at the highest degree in the bee fecal mass. The results obtained make it possible to assume that honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) respond to changes in their environment and in particular to increased quantities of heavy metals in soil, air, plants. That makes them a reliable indicator and allows their use in biomonitoring of the environment.

Key words: honey bees, bioindicators, environment, heavy metals
Abbreviations: TPP – thermal power plant; EC – energy complex

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