Honey bees as indicators of radionuclide contamination: exploring colony variability and temporal contaminant accumulation
Timothy K Haarmann
Two aspects of using honey bees, Apis mellifera, as indicators of environmental radionuclide contamination were investigated: colony variability and temporal contaminant accumulation. Two separate field experiments were conducted in areas with bioavailable radionuclide contamination. Bees were collected from colonies, analysed for concentrations of radionuclides, and the results were compared using graphical and statistical methods. The first experiment indicates that generally a low variability exists between samples collected within the same colony. A higher variability exists between samples collected from adjacent colonies. Levels of tritium and sodium-22 found in samples taken from similar colonies were inconsistent, while levels of cobalt-57, cobalt-60 and manganese-54 were consistent. A second experiment investigated the accumulation of radionuclides over time by comparing colonies that had been in the study area for different periods of time. This experiment demonstrated that there is indeed a significant accumulation of radionuclides within colonies.