Honeybees and their products as bioindicators for heavy metal pollution in Malta

  • Daniel Borg Institute of Earth Systems, L-Università ta'Malta, Msida, Malta
  • Everaldo Attard Institute of Earth Systems, L-Università ta'Malta, Msida, Malta http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5001-2972


In this study, honeybees, propolis, air, soil and plant samples were gathered from two contrasting sites Ħal Luqa (industrial area) and L-Imġarr (agricultural area) in mainland Malta. Superficial heavy metals were extracted from the samples and tested using microwave plasma-atomic emission spectrometry in order to determine the concentrations of Ag, As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Sn, Zn, Ni and Hg. The honeybee and propolis samples were digested using nitric acid and hydrogen peroxide and then ashed using a muffle furnace in order to prepare mineral solutions. Simultaneously the air samplers, soil and plant samples were washed using de-ionised water in order to extract the heavy metals settling on sample surfaces. Different methods of filtration were used in order to extract the metals from the surfaces of the samples. The most abundant metals in honeybees and propolis, and on plant and soil samples, were Sn and As (p<0.0001). In air samples0, the most abundant metal was Pb followed by Sn (p<0.05). These findings indicate that the honeybee and its propolis are good indicators for Sn and As contamination.


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Author Biographies

Daniel Borg, Institute of Earth Systems, L-Università ta'Malta, Msida, Malta

Division of Environmental Management and Planning, Institute of Earth Systems, Universita’ ta’ Malta, Msida MSD 2080 Malta.

Everaldo Attard, Institute of Earth Systems, L-Università ta'Malta, Msida, Malta

Coordinator, Division of Rural Sciences and Food Systems, Institute of Earth Systems, Universita’ ta’ Malta, Msida MSD 2080 Malta.


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How to Cite
BORG, Daniel; ATTARD, Everaldo. Honeybees and their products as bioindicators for heavy metal pollution in Malta. Acta Brasiliensis, [S.l.], v. 4, n. 1, p. 60-69, jan. 2020. ISSN 2526-4338. Available at: <http://revistas.ufcg.edu.br/ActaBra/index.php/actabra/article/view/282>. Date accessed: 22 june 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.22571/2526-4338282.
Environmental Chemistry