Honeybees, image by Shutterstock

Monitoring honey has benefits for honeybee health

Honey produced by bees can tell us about the health of the countryside - including what flowers bees are feeding on, the pesticides they are exposed to, and even what diseases they may have.

The National Honey Monitoring Scheme, set up in 2018, is a new long-term programme that uses advanced analytical techniques to identify plant DNA and measure environmental contaminants, such as pesticide residues, in honey produced from across the UK.

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This monitoring will provide early-warning of new environmental threats affecting honeybees between different regions. Indeed a recent pilot study identified widespread residues of neonicotinoid pesticides in honey samples collected from across the UK.  In the long-term, we will be able to assess how these threats change over time and vary in different regions. Together this information will help scientists, apiarists, land-owners and policy-makers make evidence-based management and policy decisions.   

The scheme forms part of CEH’s commitment to long-term environmental monitoring along with the Predatory Bird, Fish Tissue, Butterfly and Pollinator monitoring schemes.

What the monitoring scheme will aim to do:

  • State-of-the-art analysis - DNA metabarcoding & high precision mass spectrometry of honey samples

  • Sample archive - for future research developing new analytics, such as disease detection 

  • Provide feedback to participating beekeepers

  • Generate robust scientific data to inform future policy decisions 

Please note that viability of the monitoring scheme will depend upon sufficient numbers of beekeepers expressing an interest in participating.

Follow updates on Twitter: @CEH_honey

Related links

UK honey: one in five samples contains neonicotinoids (CEH News 4 January 2018)

Read our educational feature on our neonicotinoids in honey research in Science Journal for Kids

Video: Monitoring UK honey for neonicotinoid pesticide residues

Funders: 

  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Natural Environment Research Council