Effects of steel foundation wire on elemental content and hygienic removal of honey bee (Apis mellifera) brood

Kaira Malinda Wagoner & Olav Rueppell
Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA


Honey and honey bees are often contaminated with trace metals, some of which are associated with food resources. However, in some cases metal contamination may be coming from within the hive. Based on preliminary observations, we hypothesized that steel foundation wire negatively affects honey bee brood health. To test our hypothesis we quantified the elemental content and measured the removal rates of honey bee brood developing in cells overlapping foundation wires and in control cells adjacent to cells that overlapped foundation wires. We found evidence that brood positioned in cells overlapping the wires contained significantly more iron and was removed at a significantly higher rate compared to control brood. Our study identifies the harmfulness of the common modern beekeeping practice of placing steel wire in beeswax foundation, which if avoided may increase colony population size and improve the health of managed honey bee colonies.

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