Q. Is honey from hives on New York City rooftops harmful because of pollution?
A. After a 30-year ban, keeping hives of honeybees was again made legal in New York City in 2010. Since then, there have been no reports in scientific journals of harm to humans from consuming their honey.
The healthfulness of urban honey versus rural honey has been only peripherally studied. Most researchers have focused on the survival of the bees themselves.
Bees accumulate traces of pesticide residues and heavy metals, and it has been suggested that they can be used as indicators of urban pollution levels.
In one small study in Vancouver, honey from the hives of one urban operation was found to have low but safe levels of various contaminants, including cadmium, copper, lead, arsenic and zinc.
[Like the Science Times page on Facebook. | Sign up for the Science Times newsletter.]
Many urban beekeepers suggest that because their bees forage for pollen and nectar away from large-scale agriculture, their honey may actually be more healthful than that of bees buzzing about rural areas with heavily fertilized crops.
But Scott McArt, a pollination expert in the department of entomology at Cornell University, recalled a study several years ago of rooftop honeybee colonies in Manhattan.
Based on the waggle dances that bees use to tell one another where good pollen can be found, the researchers determined that most of them were flying clear across the Hudson River to forage on flowers in New Jersey.