According to research conducted between the nonprofit Hives for Humanity and the University of British Columbia, honey collected from urban beehives can actually be used to measure a city’s pollution levels. Published in Nature Sustainability, the study was carried out by testing honey from beehives in six metro Vancouver neighborhoods for lead, zinc, copper, and other elements. Researchers found that the closer a hive was to areas with more traffic, urban density, and shipping ports, the higher its chance of containing high levels of pollutants.
The reason for this phenomenon is that pollutants typically accumulate in the pollen of plants, which are then gathered by bees and transported to hives. It’s not surprising, then, that the hives on the outskirts of Vancouver, like the ones in the agricultural town of Delta, contained higher levels of manganese, which is linked to pesticide use. Scientists even frequently test the hives near the Frankfurt Airport, to keep track of the jet engines’ air pollution.
Although the realization that lead is being stored in beehives might make you a bit wary about consuming honey, Dominique Weis, one of the authors of the study, said there’s no need for concern. Adults would have to eat over two cups of honey every day to reach dangerous lead levels, so unless you’re Winnie the Pooh, you’ll probably be fine.