Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Health of Honey Bees Adversely Impacted by Selenium

Oct. 3, 2013 — Traditionally, honey bee research has focused on environmental stressors such as pesticides, pathogens and diseases. Now a research team led by entomologists at the University of California, Riverside has published a study that focuses on an anthropogenic pollutant: selenium (Se).

The researchers found that the four main forms of Se in plants -- selenate, selenite, methylselenocysteine and selenocystine -- cause mortality and delays in development in the honey bee.

"Metal pollutants like selenium contaminate soil, water, can be accumulated in plants, and can even be atmospherically deposited on the hive itself," said Kristen Hladun, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral entomologist. "Our study examined the toxic effects of selenium at multiple life stages of the honey bee in order to mimic the chronic exposure this insect may face when foraging in a contaminated area."

Study results appear in the Oct. 2013 issue of the journalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

The honey bee is an important agricultural pollinator in the United States and throughout the world. In areas of Se contamination, honey bees may be at risk because of the biotransfer of the metal from Se-accumulating plants.

Se contamination is a global problem originating from naturally contaminated soils and a multitude of anthropogenic sources including mining and industrial activities such as petroleum refining and coal-power production, as well as where agricultural runoff is collected and can concentrate selenium from the surrounding soils.

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