beePM by Liceo Scientifico Ulivi

Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are bioindicators of environmental pollution levels. During their wide-ranging foraging activity, these hymenopterans are exposed to pollutants, thus becoming a useful tool to trace environmental contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, radionuclides and volatile organic compounds.

In the present work, we demonstrate that bees can also be used as active samplers of airborne particulate matter. Worker bees were collected from hives located in a polluted postmining area in South West Sardinia (Italy) that is also exposed to dust emissions from industrial plants.

The area is included in an official list of sites of national interest for environmental remediation and has been characterized for the effects of pollutants on the health of the resident population.

The head, wings, hind legs and alimentary canal of the bees were investigated with Scanning Electron Microscopy coupled with X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX). The analyses pointed to specific morphological and chemical features of the particulate and resulted in the identification of three categories of particles: industry -, postmining -, and soil –derived.

With the exception of the gut, all the analyzed body districts displayed inorganic particles, mostly concentrated in specific areas of the body (i.e. along the coastal margin of the forewings, the medial plane of the head, and the inner surface of the hind legs).

The role of both past mining activities and the industrial activity close to the study area as sources of the particulate matter is also discussed.

We conclude that honey bees are able to collect samples of the main airborne particles emitted from different sources, therefore could be an ideal tool for monitoring such a kind of pollutants.


Target group

Researcher (the teacher)

Beneficiaries: 50 students from high-school and 76 backers from the crowdfunding campaign

The age range of the beneficiaries:

    Under 12 years old, 12-17 years old

Impact achieved

a. Building dialogue between research and society
Students from local Liceo Scientifico Ulivi were participating in implementing all the process, from bee first intalement to collection of data.

b. Co-creation of new knowledge
A lot about bee life and environmental contamination tracing.

c. Creating positive impact in society
Involvement of student into the implementation and in design and promote a crowdfunding campaign to raise the needed budget. Parents, relatives and friends funding the project through the crowdfunding campaign (awareness).

d. Empower citizens to contribute by expressing their real needs and problem
Citizens living in the monitored area felt engaged since erano coinvolte in prima persona

Number of beneficiaries who have learnt the method through the project: 50 students from high-school

Measurement tool: Tailor made by School Raising and Human Foundation


This is a Scie-Citizen Smart Practice

This project links society and science because “The main purpose of the project is didactic-training. The students will approach the scientific methodology firsthand by planning a research activity, collecting data, re-elaborating it and discussing it on the basis of the scientific literature.

The project also allows students to deal with wide-ranging environmental issues, such as the impact of environmental pollutants and their effects on public health, the use of bio-indicators for monitoring activities, the importance of pollination as an essential prerequisite for our survival and for the maintenance of biodiversity.”

Participants are involved in applying the method in their community/peer group since “The project encourages students to increase interactions with citizens and the territory. Finally, the collaboration with beekeepers of cooperatives supported by immigration and asylum centres also gives the project a strong ethical-social connotation and therefore has an added educational value.”



Achieved potential to fullfill Scie-Citizen project smart practice:


Technical table:

First time the method has been appliedbeePM – metodo pubblicato su rivista scientifica
Times the method has been iteratedOnly once
Duration of the implementation process for each application of the method1>2 years (mainly fund raising activities)
Geographical coverage of the method: What’s the context you can apply the method?International
Is there any other organisation applying or adapting the method?Yes
Can you describe shortly how other organisations might adapt or have already adapted the method?Simplyfing in case of elementary school
In which sectors is this method applicable?Private sector
What are the goals you achieve with the method?Estimate air particulate contamination
How many scientists/researchers you need to perform the method? What is their role?1
How many non-scientists/researchers you need to perform the method? What is their role?1 (teacher)
How long has it take to have first results/ effects noticeable?3 months
How would you define the process of your project?Bottom–up: they participated to gather data + crowdfunding + dissemination
How does the documentation of the results look like?Presentazione al pubblico (città)
What makes your project innovative?you get answer you’ll never get trough other methodology
How have you promoted/do you promote your project?Crowdfunding campaign > social media > final presentation
What are the strengths of your project?Guepas is a formidable campionatore
What are the weaknesses of your project?Not for all season
What are the opportunities you can see for your project?Estendere in alter regioni > magari farlo diventare una metodologia ISO
What are the threats you can see for your project?NO
Tell us a success story/anecdote related to your projectIlaria Negri, teacher and co-initiator of the project for the bio-monitoring of particulate matter with bees, has promotes a crowdfunding campaign together with her student to enhance a school that “can be experienced by the parents of the students as a dynamic and open institution, able to propose avantgarde projects that promote dialogue and collaboration between the school community (students and teachers) and that beyond the walls of the school (parents and society), in the name of protecting the health of all.


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