Honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies as bioindicators of environmental SARS-CoV-2 occurrence.

The Science of the Total Environment
Giovanni CiliaAntonio Nanetti

Abstract

SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Airflows sustain the infection spread, and in densely urbanized areas airborne particulate matters (PMs) are deemed to aggravate the viral transmission. Apis mellifera colonies are used as bioindicators as they allow environmental sampling of different nature, PMs included. This experiment demonstrates for the first time the possible use of honey bee colonies in the SARS-CoV-2 monitoring. The trial was conducted in Bologna on 18 March 2021, when the third wave of the Italian pandemic was at its peak and environmental conditions allowed high PM concentrations in the air. Sterile swabs were lined up at the hive entrance to sample the dusty material on the body of returning foragers. All of them resulted positive for the target genes of viral SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Likewise, internal samples were taken, but they resulted in no amplification of the target sequences. This experiment does not support speculations about the role of honey bees or their products in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. However, it indicates a novel use of A. mellifera colonies in the environmental detection of airborne human pathogens, at least in a densely urbanized area, deserving better understanding and possible inte...Continue Reading

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