One More Job for the Busy Bee
A scientist in British Columbia, Canada, is enlisting the bee to help in prospecting for mineral deposits.
Examining pollen collected by bees near a molybdenum mine, Dr. Harry Warren of the University of British Columbia found 40 times more metal contamination than in pollen collected elsewhere. Similarly, pollen from areas near a copper mine and a zinc smelter contain four to six times more copper and zinc than normal.
“Plants absorb metals from the air and the soil,” explains Dr. Warren. “These metals permeate the plant’s system, including its reproductive organs and the pollen. . . . If you can tell where the bees find the pollen, you can locate the deposits.” As little as half a gram of pollen is enough for the analysis.