BEEHOLD, The colony of the honeybee as a bio-sampler for pollutants and plant pathogens


BEEHOLD, The colony of the honeybee as a bio-sampler for pollutants and plant pathogens

Promovendus ing. JJM (Sjef) van der Steen MSc
Promotor HHM (Huub) Rijnaarts
Copromotor JTC (Tim) Grotenhuis
dr. WJ (Willem Jan) de Kogel
Organisatie Wageningen University, Sub-department of Environmental Technology

wo 25 mei 2016 11:00 tot 12:30

Locatie Auditorium, building number 362
Generaal Foulkesweg 1
6703 BG Wageningen


Beehold, the honeybee colony as bio-sampler for pollutants and plant pathogens
Along with nectar and pollen, honeybees transport pollutants and plant pathogens (in study terms: target matter) from flower to hive. Applying the colony to collect target matter is a passive sampling method. Critical points of this method have been combined in a flow chart and calculation model for the optimal study design. To collect pollutants and plant pathogens for analysis, honeybee colonies are subsampled. Subsampling is performed sacrificially by taking and processing bees or non-sacrificially which leaves the colony unaffected. For the latter subsampling method the Beehold tube has been developed. The Beehold tube adsorbs part of target matter from the exterior of hive-entering forager bees. The location of target matter in the environment, the minimal amount required for analysis and the amount of target matter on or in the bee determine the optimal location of the honeybee colony, collection period and subsampling method. The thesis includes studies on the temporal and spatial variance of heavy metals detectable in bees. Detection of plant pathogens with honeybee colonies is studied with Erwinia amylovora (bacterium causing fireblight) and Erwinia pyrifoliae (pathogen in strawberry). The hypothetic route of soil contamination, soil erosion and finally atmospheric deposition of γ–hexachlorocyclohexane / Lindane containing soil particles in flowers was studied applying non-sacrificial subsampling.


1. The focus of apicultural research on bee health veils the beauty of beekeeping and the multipotential application of the honeybee colony. (this thesis)
2. Unlike what is stated in the press and social media, the honeybee colony is an instrument to indicate and not the gauge of the quality of the environment. (this thesis)
3. Solitary bees are excellent pollinators for crops, but their role will remain marginal in modern agriculture and horticulture pollination.
4. Developing adequate test protocols to evaluate the impact of chemicals on the environment offers more benefit to society than banning chemicals for political reasons.
5. The slogan “together we fight against cancer” incorrectly suggests one can beat cancer by fighting.
6. Experiencing sound as music or pothering noise is a matter of open minded ears and state of mind